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TechF.I.N. Helps Immigrant Clients Bridge the Digital Divide

Juliana Weiss is working towards becoming a Community Health Worker to launch a career in social services. Having moved to Astoria, Queens from Brazil in 2016, Juliana has a cellphone and an iPad. But what she needs in her home to help with studying and job-searching, is her own computer.

Juliana Weiss (left) taking home her new PC, aided by CIANA staff Jose Velasco.

Not having a computer impacts Juliana’s life “in everything,” as she puts it. “I moved here and have been using my phone and iPad, but I need the desktop computer because I need to work.”

Thankfully, as a legal client at CIANA, Juliana learned that Technology for Families in Need, or TechF.I.N. for short, provides newly revitalized computers to people in her situation- low-income, new to the U.S., or disadvantaged in some other way. On September 15, Juliana became a TechF.I.N. computer recipient thanks to their partnership with CIANA.

Based in Brooklyn, TechF.I.N. previously distributed over 50 computers to CIANA’s clients in July 2022, as part of their mission to bridge the digital divide globally by addressing a major hurdle to computer hardware ownership for low income families: its cost.

“We get these computers from corporations that donate them to us,” explained Crystal, a Board member and Board Secretary with TechF.I.N. who helped with the 2023 distribution. “Then the TechFIN staff refurbishes and revitalizes the machines and makes them ready to be donated.”

For the September deployment, TechF.I.N. also partnered with Cheyenne Van Cooten, an AWS Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity leader, who won an AWS Innovation Fund microgrant to fund a Bridging the Digital Divide project. This social impact project will provide revitalized computers to youth and families across several organizations and low-income NYC communities, including CIANA's clients in Astoria.

Cheyenne van Cooten (right) demonstrating how to set up a TechFIN PC to clients, assisted by Crystal White (center).

As we explained last year, technological access is no longer a luxury, but a day-to-day necessity, from completing school assignments to paying bills to scheduling doctor’s appointments. Some of the most lucrative career paths today revolve around technology, but not having a computer creates a significant roadblock.

“Nowadays cellphones have everything, but when you do something like an assignment or a research paper, for this type of work you need a computer,” says CIANA client Sadia Chowdhury, who is currently taking a course in IT.

Chowdhury’s husband is also a student; he is studying for his Master’s degree in Business Analytics, so spreadsheets are part of his daily academic routine. But in the year since the couple moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh, they have never owned a computer of their own. Their professional aspirations are why their new TechF.I.N. computers will be of great help.

TechF.I.N. staff, Cheyenne and volunteers demonstrated to recipients how to plug in and set up their new computers. 50 CIANA clients of all ages and backgrounds received computers, helping them and their families achieve digital literacy which is so necessary in today’s world.

Computers will help CIANA clients engage more deeply with CIANA’s own services: our adult English and Civics classes remain virtual, and we have 20 students enrolled in virtual afterschool. TechF.I.N. computers will help clients to navigate the challenges of life in a new country and eventually become fully integrated.

Despite their different backgrounds and career plans, Juliana and Sadia were uniform in their appreciation towards TechF.I.N and Cheyenne Van Cooten. “I would like to say thanks so much for their help and for their donation and I am very excited about it,” says Juliana.


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