Using digital literacy resources to build a new life in Greater Des Moines
More than 15 years ago Pastor Eugene Kiruhura came to the United States as a refugee. Since then, he’s used his experience as an opportunity to help others in his community. Now, with Google Fiber’s support, the Shalom Community Impact Center is furthering its impact in the Des Moines region, helping more refugees and immigrants than ever before.
At the Shalom Community Impact Center (SCIC) our goal has always been to love through the service of others and to impact our Des Moines community in positive, powerful, and lasting ways.
In 2007, I arrived in Des Moines as a refugee. This community became my safe haven after fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo three years before. While each immigrant journey is unique, our stories of coming to a new country share similar challenges. Refugees and immigrants must overcome obstacles like trauma from a life they are leaving behind displacement to food insecurity to lack of access to education. Once in a new country, they encounter barriers to community services and have little exposure to English or technology, making adjusting to life in a new, foreign country particularly difficult.
Since I founded the Shalom Community Impact Center (SCIC) in 2010, we have faced these challenges hand-in-hand with the people we serve. We are a resource to immigrants during their transition period so they can begin to flourish in America. At SCIC, we focus on upward mobility and the key to that mobility is our education portfolio.
SCIC offers a variety of educational classes and resources including English-language classes, after-school programming, and computer classes. Today, computer skills and internet access are ingrained into the very fiber of American DNA – they are the doorways to employment, education, healthcare, social connection, and more. So, it is imperative for all who walk through our doors to become familiar with – and have access to – these resources.
We offer multiple computer classes each week tailored to different age groups, from children to adults, ensuring students learn appropriate skills and have exposure to foster familiarity with any technology that is new to them. The demand for all these services has only increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we know that when we teach our students the basics of computer and internet literacy, a wealth of new opportunities unfold before them.
And yet, these skills alone are only one part of the equation. Even the most familiar and adept computer users cannot recognize these benefits if they don’t have regular, reliable access to a computer and reliable internet. And many of the individuals we serve do not have that luxury.
Two years ago, Google Fiber changed this for our SCIC community when it expanded service into the metro area and planted roots in the community. Together with Google Fiber, we have been able to amplify our impact far beyond what we could achieve on our own.
Last year, Google Fiber supported us with a generous donation that enabled the SCIC to purchase more than 20 laptops, WiFi hotspots, and software, which became toolkits for the SCIC community. In 2023, their donation enabled us to add additional days and sessions to our digital literacy education program and to add a summer digital literacy program for K–12 learners. These classes are critical for immigrants assimilating to life in the United States.
Google Fiber’s gift also helped us upgrade our staff devices and fund childcare services. Additionally, Google Fiber connected us with an organization they’ve worked with for a long time, PCs for People, and we’ve worked with them to source affordable devices for our program participants.
Resources and support like the ones Google Fiber provided truly impact and enhance the work we do at SCIC. Our work isn’t done. There are always more people with greater needs. Our goal is to help remove barriers to existing services and create additional services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate. We are committed to serving refugees and immigrants, empowering them to live full, fruitful life here in Des Moines and surrounding communities.
Posted by Pastor Eugene Kiruhura, Shalom Community Impact Center