As a part of CTN’s partnership with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, we have placed volunteers in three Neighborhood Access Points across the city. Neihborhood Access Points provide various workforce services to connect clients to employment. One of these sites is America Works, a Specialized Access Point, which focuses on providing services for the re-entry of the criminal-justice-involved population. Since late March, Kevin Di has been on-site, providing assistance to clients in the computer lab at America Works.
Kevin works as a software engineer for LinkedIn, responsible for architecting, designing, developing, and supporting the most visible Internet-scale features and infrastructures. He has worked in different countries and teamed with talented people all around the world. From the team in China, to Singapore, and now in the USA, he has worked with and learned enthusiastically from colleagues. With years of experience under his belt, Kevin never hesitates to coach others in need.
One recurring topic in the lab was cyber safety and filtering spam. Kevin was shocked at how many of the clients were scammed when they first started using the Internet. After having painful experiences, they had become skeptical or paranoid about the Internet and technologies. Kevin taught them about the most common scams. He also showed them how to spot spam and set up filters in their email accounts to help prevent future spam.
Kevin found that the key to being a successful volunteer is empathy. Most of the members are there to learn basic computer skills.
My job there was not only to fix technical devices or answer problems; it was to listen to them. Most of the people there went through the justice system. Some spent decades in prison. Almost every one of them struggled and felt all these technologies were against them. I listened to them, and when they felt that I was truly paying attention to what they said, they became more willing to share a lot about their lives, about all the problems they were facing. I believe anyone can learn how to use these technologies given certain time. I hope they can feel they are treated with respect, and their voice can be heard.
Kevin will continue his role at America Works through the end of July. The Neighborhood Access Points volunteer placements will begin a new cycle in August and will extend through the end of next year.
For more information on the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development access sites, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For volunteer opportunities, visit www.communitytechnetwork.org/volunteer.