By Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza
The COVID-19 crisis put many families and students in Washington state at risk of being left behind. This problem has had an especially negative impact on communities of color across our region who face larger infection rates and limited access to resources to help them through this time.
To help the community, we immediately created a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which allows individuals to support and lift up those who are navigating unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributions to this fund make it possible to feed hungry people through our food bank, keep them housed with rent assistance, and support families who are not eligible for or do not have access to public benefits.We ask anyone with extra resources to donate to this important cause at this time: https://www.elcentrodelaraza.org/covid-19/emergencyfund/.
Our 43 programs and services address early learning, youth and adult education, affordable housing, basic needs and family resources. Due to COVID-19 we had to pause many of our in-person services and provide them remotely. We immediately adapted and restructured program delivery to connect families and students with our resources and classes remotely from their homes. Staff worked tirelessly to move our programs online so we can continue to help our community, through the power of the internet.
A key partner for us in this journey is the team at Comcast Washington. Over the last decade, they have worked with us on programming to connect our families to technology resources and digital skills training. The company even helped connect households that need internet to an affordable option through its Internet Essentials program. Through this low-cost internet program, kids and families that need a connection have gotten one during the pandemic.
This week, we unveiled our latest update to that partnership, which played a pivotal role in our ability to offer new online programming – more Wi-Fi technology and connectivity for our center through the Comcast Lift Zones program and the opening of the Roberto Maestas Digital Learning Lab. As a designated “Lift Zone,” El Centro now has additional high-powered Wi-Fi and connectivity for three years and access to other resources that help kids and families connect to the internet when they are at our center.
With the new lab, we now have a fully furnished technology center that will immediately impact and support the virtual programming we have designed. It includes $50,000 in new technology from Comcast for recording, streaming, and remote instruction, so our virtual classes and services can now reach as many people across the state as possible in the safety of their homes.
Through this lab we can find ways to empower our youth to participate in their education and actively learn in a virtual setting. We will also use it to help adults secure living-wage jobs and support retraining efforts for those in industries impacted by the pandemic. And ultimately, it will give El Centro de la Raza the ability to create even more classes and services that will better the lives of families in our community for years to come.
Long-term, Once the pandemic is under control and we can welcome people back safely, we hope to open the lab up to other local nonprofits that could benefit from creating virtual programming to reach people across our community. You can learn more about our new lab and the Comcast program by visiting www.elcentrodelaraza.org/lab.
It is important now that we come together as a community to serve all people, and these types of partnerships can have a lasting impact.We are excited about the opportunities this new technology can bring to our organization and know it will make a difference for so many of the people and families we work with every day. Through community support and longstanding partnerships like the one we have with Comcast, we know we make a difference and help many who need it at this time.
We also again encourage everyone who has the ability to support our local community to consider contributing to the El Centro de la Raza COVID-19 Relief fund https://www.elcentrodelaraza.org/covid-19/emergencyfund/.
Any support you can provide at this time can make a huge difference.