THE Heroes Foundation (Heroes), a registered not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, is helping the youth bridge the digital divide and incorporate technology into their everyday lives.
The foundation has launched its Student Support Centre, where students and teachers can get technical support from Heroes staff either remotely or in office. Heroes distributed ten tablets for students to participate in programmes and for online school activities.
It is also working with sponsors to provide more support to students in need, said a media release.
CEO Lawrence Arjoon said, “All of our programmes are now delivered digitally, and most of our team works remotely, so our office has a lot of space. Students can come in and get technical support, use computers, or access the internet if needed, adhering to all the covid19 guidelines. Appointments are co-ordinated through their programme co-ordinators to ensure that we manage the space safely.” Heroes works with over 500 participants, aged 11-17, in the Heroes Development Programme (HDP) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of TT (BBBSTT).
These programmes were traditionally delivered in-person in schools, community residences, and corporate workplaces. Now they are delivered online to over 70 per cent of participants, or via phone calls, as some students are still not online, the release said.
“The initial digital programme transition in April this year got extremely complicated very quickly. Students were using different platforms to connect for classes, they were running out of space on their devices for apps, some could not connect online or were sharing digital devices, and then there were those who we just could not reach because contact numbers for them or their parents were not in service or had changed,” Arjoon said. Co-ordinators and case officers spent the last few months learning the Microsoft Enterprise Suite, which is used internally, but they also had to become experts in Zoom, Skype, and Google Classroom, Arjoon said.
“It was an adventure with the students as well, because they were all learning together and helping each other, and that enabled everyone to really learn about the tools and maximise how we use them.”
Training material created for the Heroes team is shared with students and teachers who ask for help. Sessions on understanding and leveraging technology are now included in the programme, and students are encouraged to share their learnings and experiences with one another.
Jeannelle Forbes, an HDP student from Woodbrook Secondary School, shared her experiences in the media release: “There wasn’t much going on over the past few months due to the covid19 pandemic. We didn’t have anything to do, and it was getting a bit boring locked up in our houses 24/7, with no interaction with any of our friends. The Heroes Foundation came in and did lots of activities with us online, and we also learnt a few things on the way. These included learning about health and hygiene, learning how to cook and eat healthy, learning how to stay positive during this pandemic, and learning about different online tools to help us along the way.
“As you know, school reopened online, and to be honest with you, I thought the transformation from face-to-face classes to online classes was very easy because the past months with Heroes helped me to get accustomed to the online interaction, and I am very grateful for that.”
Heroes rolled out two new Corporate Workplace Big Brothers Big Sisters mentorship programmes in September after moving the application, enrolment, screening, and matching processes online.
A digital Migrant Heroes Development Programme that targets 150 Spanish-speaking migrant youth living in Trinidad was done in August, in collaboration with the Living Water Community and TTV Solidarity Network with funding from the Pan-American Development Foundation (PADF).
Heroes’ new digital platform roll-out in the coming weeks will allow more people to access its activities. The platform design and function came from the ideas and inputs of current programme participants and aims to build upon the last 18 years of learning from Heroes in youth development and mentorship programmes and events.
Arjoon explained, “A fundamental part of the Heroes development model is to connect youth with leaders and role-models who want to contribute to youth development by providing positive and experienced guidance for dealing with life’s issues and challenges. We plan to do that digitally going forward, and to continue to empower the youth of TT as the world continues to change around us.”