Eight years ago, while Kate was studying psychology in her native country of Belarus, she had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States. Knowing that she needed to focus on building her English language skills, she spent her first year in the U.S. studying English at City College of San Francisco.
Her first job in the U.S. was in an administrative position with Community Tech Network. Kate had planned to work for a nonprofit because she wanted to help others in a meaningful way. In her CTN role, she witnessed the amazing work that the organization does and offered to use her native language skills to help the large population of older Russian-speaking immigrants living in the Bay Area.
She began her outreach by providing tech assistance at a local senior center serving Russian speakers. As word of her expertise spread, she became overwhelmed with requests for technical assistance and training. Kate became so well known among the Russian-speaking seniors that they would find out where she was training and make special trips to these computer labs seeking her assistance. Currently, half her time is spent working with older adults helping them navigate the internet and assisting with immigration, citizenship, and similar issues. The other half of her workday is focused on administrative responsibilities such as creating reports to funders, processing donations, and managing CTN’s Salesforce implementation.
Kate explains: “I love working with older adults. When I explain simple things, I am so rewarded when I see the understanding and wonderment appear on their faces. Providing knowledge that improves their lives give me such joy. Senior immigrants from various areas of the post–Soviet Union experience loneliness, helplessness, and perceive themselves incapable of learning. I know that I inspire them and give them encouragement. I tell them don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Kate’s most memorable learner was an 85-year-old woman who rode her bike to the senior center carrying her iPad.
Until Belarus became independent in 1991, it was the smallest of the three Slavic republics in the Soviet Union (the larger ones were Russia and Ukraine). Her mom and grandmother still live in Belarus, and they communicate regularly with Kate via video conferencing using a popular Russian platform.