Never Too Old to Learn

Maria Luisa Cota Valdez from Sonora, a Northwestern Mexican city, was 60 years old. In spite of her age, she had no plan to retire. The beauty products saleswoman tried to keep herself busy, but all the customers she could get were her family and friends. She had very little knowledge about computers and has been struggling to keep up with new technology and to expand her customer base.

A few weeks ago she heard that the Sonora Institute of Technology, or Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora (ITSON), was offering a training program at its ADOC center. The program was specifically designed for senior citizens. She thought that was a great opportunity and decided to join the program.

Valdez described the two-week training program as a “life changing experience” for her. “Before the program I was convinced that I would never have the opportunity to learn to use a computer,” she said, “but the teachers and volunteers there were so patient with us. They answered all of my questions in detail, and assured me that senior citizens come to learn computer skills just as young people do.”

The enthusiasm of the instructors inspired Valdez to continue her study. “Thanks to the knowledge I learned from the program, I was able to use a computer and the internet to promote and sell my beauty products, and it works much better than mail and telephone!”

She said, “I am truly grateful to ITSON and its ADOC for putting this program together. And we have a new and shiny classroom with very modern computers! I am very happy with that.”

Valdez now applied the knowledge she had learned in the program at work. “And I am going to keep in touch with my family on the Internet!”

Knowledge Grows When Shared

Love grows when shared; so does knowledge. The story of two Mexican women tells it all.

Antonieta Petriz, 65 years old, is a divorced mother with two sons. She made up her mind to learn computer skills, and started with a program in León City. However, “the class was excellent but they went too fast,” said Petriz. After two months she decided to find another program that suits her capacity. She did some research and found three options, but none of them would accept a student at her age. “I was old,” she said with a self-deprecating smile.

Being discouraged by all the places she visited, Petriz only became more desperate to find an ideal program. “Everyday when I wake up, I cheer myself and tell myself to look for more options,” she said. “We are in an age with so many technology advantages that knowing how to use a computer has become an essential skill, and the capacity of using most current software is required by almost every job opportunity.”

It was often amazing how things work out. “One day I was sitting on a square and eating ice cream, and then I saw an advertisement with a message, saying ‘computer classes,’” Petriz recalled. “At that time I was demoralized due to being turned down by every place I visited. I felt lost. But for some reason I felt that I got to the right place this time!”

That is how Petriz got to the ADOC center in Guanajuato. “I was warmly welcomed when I got there.”

At the ADOC center, Petriz found just what she needed. She got plenty of support. “They fully understand my learning limitation, like my age.” she laughed.

At the beginning of the computer class she had a lot of issues with that machine sitting in front of her. Even so she felt warmly welcomed at the center. “At the ADOC center there were people of all ages. There are children, youngsters, adults, and seniors.

I know my ability to learn is not like the children but I felt very happy to see that the instructors understand each one of us. They dedicated their time to explain everything in detail for us,” said Petriz. “I even took the basic course twice. Nobody had a problem with that.”

Little by little she picked up computer skills. “Now I feel fully confident to move forward as the courses continue.”

“I was so happy, because I finally found the right place to learn computer skills, a place that suit my needs and make me feel comfortable,” she said. “Here I don’t feel rejected anymore. I feel accepted and understood. I feel that I belong to the group. In addition to learning computer skills, I make several friends, and we go out for coffee and share our experience about the center or things not related to the center.”

“I think the ADOC is the best place to learn computer skills, for children and for seniors like me,” said Petriz. “Now when I meet people who don’t use a computer, I tell them I used to be computer illiterate, but now I can use a computer! I never miss a single chance to recommend the program to my family and friends.”

“People in my age might think they don’t have the ability to learn to use a computer, or don’t have the necessity to use computer. They are making a mistake. They should all come to the ADOC. It is better late than never,” said Petriz.

Petriz is not alone. Elizabeth Valdivia González, another woman who took part in the ADOC project, totally agrees with her.

Elizabeth González joined a group of professors from Sonora Institute of Technology, or Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora (ITSON), and started to work as an instructor at an ADOC at the end of 2010, when the institute started to teach adults computer skills as a community service.

Most of students of González’s were senior citizens. “I keep telling them it is never too late to learn,” said González. She especially enjoyed seeing her students’ growth and hearing them saying, “thank you for what you have taught me.”

“Some of my students would say, ‘please help me…there is no one in my house that pays attention to me.’ And this is exactly why we brought the computer training program to the community as a service.” said González. “We want to let all those who attend the program feel that they are warmly welcomed and their future is secured.”

Many of González’s students have found job opportunities after taking the training courses. González considered the fact as a proof that the senior citizens are able to be self-sufficient and find better jobs, as long as they get proper support to improve their computer knowledge and skills.

“Our motto here is that ‘knowledge is love, grows when shared.’ And we will continue to share all of our knowledge and experience with whoever needs it!” said González.

Helping An Army Veteran Bond with His Family

What activities do you want to engage in after you retire? For those who didn’t have a hobby, they may end up finding their days boring, spending time mostly on sleeping, watching television or being grumpy. But Dang Dam Tuan, a Vietnamese army veteran, tried to stay active and energetic after retiring from the military service. He found his days interesting and rewarding, not because of traveling or going to the gym, but by discovering new adventures and new joys that could last for the rest of his life: taking care of his family, and learning new things by participating in the computer training program at an ADOC.

Dang Dam Tuan spent his youth as a serviceman in the Viet Nam People’s Army. He could not spend much time at home because of his military career. Therefore, after retiring from the army, he committed himself to his family, especially taking care of his two grandchildren. Looking after these two kids gave him tremendous joy, and brought him on an unexpected journey: learning computer skills.

His wife bought a computer for their grandchildren. It didn’t take long for the kids to break the computer and render it inoperative. His wife came to him and asked him to fix the computer, but he couldn’t do anything because he knew nothing about computers. At that moment, he realized that he had entered a new era of the digital revolution, in which computers and the Internet have become indispensable in the daily life of many people. He consequently felt bad about himself for lagging behind the trend.

Although many senior people feel that the digital devices are too complicated to learn and refuse to adapt to new technology, Dang Dam Tuan, however, had a different perspective and mindset. He understood the importance of learning basic computer skills in the current digital age. Now that he had the will, he needed to find the way. He asked friends and relatives to find out where he could learn computer skills. Before long, one of his relatives told him about the ADOC, an institute that provides small businesses and individuals, especially women, youth and disadvantaged, the training on basic information and communications technology skills and e-commerce practices.

At his first visit to the center, Dang Dam Tuan was so impressed by ADOC’s clean facilities, modern computers and Internet access that he registered for the courses right on the spot. Dang Dam Tuan was happy with the courses. “The teachers were so enthusiastic and reassured me that I would soon know all about computers,” he said. After only three months of training, he already knew the basics, such as how to install and configure the operating system and how to use Microsoft Word and other application programs.

Most importantly, he also learned how to use the Internet to get online to collect information when helping his grandchildren with their homework. “Thanks to the ADOC project, I have confidence in fixing the computer at home whenever the kids break it or if there is an error,” he said. “I no longer fear this new technology and have found a way to bond with my grandchildren, compensating for all those years I was away from them.”

Since ADOC was established in Viet Nam in 2005, more than 100,000 people have benefitted from its computer training programs. Dang Dam Tuan is among the beneficiaries, who have received new skills and opportunities from the center to build up their confidence in using technology. This acquired confidence is another great joy that he has received durig his retirement. The ADOC project has helped him bridge the technology gap between him and his grandkids and further helped him to better connect with them.

Injecting New Life to Traditional Craftsmanship

Nguyen Thi Lam Giang’s mother makes excellent embroideries. She embroiders whenever she has a break from farming. Without exception, scarfs, pillows, furniture coverings and the like reveal different styles and features through her skillful design. The embroidery patterns always present the distinctive features and characteristics of traditional Vietnamese culture, and these handicrafts have long been sold in souvenir stores. Because Viet Nam’s economy in the past was not prosperous, many people relied on handicrafts to earn extra money in addition to their daily farming work. In order to make ends meet, Nguyen Thi Lam Giang’s mother worked very hard, sacrificed much and endured hardships to bring up her children.

When Viet Nam embarked on economic reform, more and more innovative technologies were introduced to the economy. As a result, many rural families no longer worked to produce handicrafts, which only brought meager profits. When Nguyen Thi Lam Giang realized that traditional handicraft techniques were gradually dying out, she felt an indescribable gloom deep within her. Her mother, however, did not share this feeling nor give up making handicrafts. She continued to create beautiful embroideries.

After Nguyen Thi Lam Giang joined the Vietnamese E-Commerce Association, her attitude began to change. She heard that with the help of Digital Opportunity Center, an APEC project, the E-Commerce Association often host a series of short-term courses on digital-age commerce. Nguyen Thi Lam Giang told her father about the courses, and encouraged him to attend the program. Attending courses and using computers provided by the ADOC project, her father gained knowledge about basic computer operation and usage. More importantly, he also learned advanced internet e-commerce applications.

According to Nguyen Thi Lam Giang, her father understood and encouraged her mother’s persistence in creating handicrafts. To help expand her business, he took photos of her works and uploaded them to the Internet. He also used the skills he learned from the ADOC project to set up and manage a website. This move gave his wife’s creations great exposure to the public and even to people around the world.

After a period of time, more and more orders were placed through the website. Nguyen Thi Lam Giang’s mother couldn’t handle the huge number of orders just by herself, so she organized a female needlework team. They took orders and worked together. Now the size of the operation has become bigger and bigger. The business has developed from a small scale where handicrafts were made at home to a fully involved handicraft production line. They sell products to different parts of the world. People in Europe and the Americas place orders with them through the website.

Because of the assistance from the ADOC project, Nguyen Thi Lam Giang said, her family has been able to incorporate an important innovation into traditional Vietnamese handicrafts and give the industry a new life. So, she added, she and her parents want to express infinite gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity.

Single Mothers Turn into Female Entrepreneurs

Peñalolén is a rising administrative district that sees the most significant economic growth in Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile. Many large companies and shopping malls have been established, and numerous new housing is provided. Now, this city has a very large number of micro, small and medium enterprises in need of counseling courses to improve the productivity of their human resources.

In 2007, Peñalolén worked with SERCOTEC to conduct trainings on seed project proposal and related computer skills.

“ADOC gave me the opportunities to get my family out of hardship.” Elizabeth Andrea Rojas Flores said, with tears in her eyes. A few years ago, she was paid the basic salary, about US$250, as a florist staff, and raising three children. Life was very difficult. As her children were growing up, her salary became insufficient to support the kids.

She followed the recommendations of friends, and registered for the training on seed project proposal provided by ADOC Peñalolén Telecenter. With a relatively lower education background, she encountered many difficulties drafting and completing proposals during training sessions.When she received a call informing her becoming the winner of seed project propsal contest, happy tears rolled down her face after she hung up the phone.

Elizabeth Andrea Rojas Flores is now a female entreperneur whose company is expanding, supported by a stable customer base and revenue. She would like to thank ADOC Peñalolén Telecenter, for giving her the opportunity to improve her family life. She said that if the business grows, she would like to provide more job opportunities to other people.

Cecilia Salcedo Leyton was another successful female entrepreneur. “I want to thank ADOC Center and its Economic and Cultural Office in Chinese Taipei. They’ve made a very important contribution to us because we have grown as a business and as individuals.” She said, with eyes reddening.

After graduating from public high school, Ceciclia Salcedo Leyton had been a staff assistant. When her child entered elementary school and needed uniform, she found that uniforms of public schools were so simple that she could even make them by herself. The idea inspired her to start her own business. However, the procurement of public school uniforms, like any other government procurement, has to be done through ChileCompra, the online bidding system of Chilean government. Unfortunately, Ceciclia Salcedo Leyton knew nothing about computer.

Just as she did not know where to turn to, a neighbor told her about Peñalolen Telecenter. With doubt, she registered for training sessions on ChileCompra, seed project, and other free courses.

Six months later, she is now a female entrepreneur in Peñalolén. She participated in the seed project proposal contest, and won the Chilean SERCOTEC grant. She used the money to buy a new sewing machine, material and rent a small studio. She continues to use what she learned at Peñalolen Telecenter to win bids on ChileCompra and compete with other online vendors. Now she is responsible for supplying uniforms to two public high schools.

“I think I need to hire more staffs soon! I cannot make all those thousands of uniforms by myself!” Cecilia Salcedo Leyton said, smiling.

Discovering the Joy of Digital Era

Tamara Vinogradova, called herself an ordinary babushka, “grandmother” in Russian,
was born in Yaroslavl, 1937. Her childhood coincided with the Second World War, and
she spent most of her life learning to be a “qualified/good Soviet” under the totalitarian
regime of the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vinogradova faced a new challenge: the digital era brought by the 21st century. This new way of life in which digital technology is indispensible, was completely unknown, unimaginable to Vinogradova. Therefore, “invitation to the course ‘the personal computer, communications systems and electronic services of Yaroslavl region’ was a gift. Learning something new is always interesting and useful. It all started with an introduction to the computer, its functions, and gradually to its capabilities. Computer’s capabilities are our opportunities!” said Vinogradova.

To Vinogradova, the most difficult part was to get off the couch, especially for an elderly like her. She discovered the convenience that computer could offer, including making appointments with doctors, communicating with others through emails, chatting on Skype, accessing world news on the Internet, receiving information of any product, and enriching one’s spiritual and cultural life.

Therefore, she was grateful for the opportunity. “It gave back to us the dream about a decent life and the desire to strive for it. Thank you. It showed how diverse and interesting life could be. I hope everyone could have one computer, so to travel to the world of knowledge, and of desire,” said Vinogradova.

Empowering Abused Women

Hoa was born and grew up in a poor village in the mountainous area of Thanh Hoa Province, which is located in the North Central coastal region of Viet Nam. Those living in remote villages in upland areas are the poorest, with limited resources and for any development. Therefore, it is common for the youth to commit themselves to hard work for the sake of the family at an early age. Many young men and women in Hoa’s village would cross provincial borders and search for jobs in farms. Hoa, although terrified by the thought of being far away from home, thought about taking the same path. The difficult circumstances her family struggled with became a motivation stronger than her doubts. She decided to leave the village and follow the footsteps of other young people.

Early one morning in 2007, Hoa packed her personal belongings and left her village. Young and innocent, she didn’t know how complicated the society outside the village could be. She never expected that the adventure in crossing the border would turn out to be a crossing into the reality of a cruel world. She didn’t work in the farm as she had planned. Instead, she fell into the hands of human-traffickers and was forced to become a prostitute.

Sold to a brothel, Hoa suffered physical and psychological abuses. After managing to escape, she received intense family care and long hours of counseling at the Center for Women and Development to help her overcome the painful experience and start a new and positive life. With support from her family and the center, she was slowly able to rebuild her self-esteem and the ability to socialize with others. Gradually, she started to regain trust in other people.

The Center for Women and Development in Viet Nam is an institution to protect and help abused women. It provides activities and programs, such as psycho-social counseling, physical support and health care, to those victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. In addition to these activities, the center also offers vocational training and career guidance to empower women. From the center, Hoa learned about the APEC Digital Opportunity Center, or ADOC, and its training program in information and communication technologies.

Despite her painful past, Hoa never forgot her goal of helping her family and providing financial assistance to her parents. She felt that the ADOC 2.0 project could help her reach the goal. Hoa registered for the center’s training program without hesitation.

At one of the 19 ADOC centers established in Viet Nam as of 2014, Hoa took computer courses for four months. From the courses, she not only learnt about computers and the basics of operating system, but also the internet and its most popular applications. She was introduced to Microsoft Office sutie, such as Word and Excel. During her training at the center, Hoa was regarded as diligent and hardworking. Upon her completing the courses, the center referred her to a job opportunity and provided a recommendation letter for her.

Thanks to her new computer skills, her strong determination and the tremendous support from the Center for Women’s Development and ADOC, Hoa was soon hired for her newly acquired ICT skills. The road to a better life may have been rugged and winding , even costing her innocence, but her diligence and determination finally paid off. With a decent salary, Hoa is now able to live a comfortable life. Most importantly, she has the ability to send some money back to her village to help her family. A bright future is waiting for her.

Providing Opportunities to the Visually Impaired

In 2005, ADOC Secretariat started its work in the Philippines. As of 2014, 17 ADOC centers have been funded and set up, and 152,363 participants, including women, children, disadvantaged minorities, have been trained in the centers. The training course covered the basic computer skills, such as Microsoft Office suite and Internet Explorer, hardware reassembly, and mroe advanced applications like e-commerce and e-trading.

Here is a story talking about a young man from the Philippines that perfectly illustrates how ADOC helps disadvantaged people to improve their lives. James Santos (anonym) who is at age 16 and lives in Dagat-Dagatan Caloocan City, is a freshman with low vision at the AMA Computer School in Paco, Manila. After school, he attended the PC operation course with access technology and PC refurbishment in the ATRIEV ADOC.

For James Santos, life was difficult. Going to school in Paco from Dagat-Dagatan Caloocan City was a daily problem. To make matters worse, his vision was deteriorating. He finds it difficult to travel alone at night. With limited vision, James could only identify the bus that takes him home from its color.

Due to the financial difficulty, James skipped lunch most of the time so he can have money for the next day. His father Felix (anonym ), is the sole provider to the family. Working as a security guard, the little amount of salary is the only financial resource to the family with three children. Felix couldn’t provide more financial supports for James to get more help, such as having someone walk with James at night to make sure James’ safety.

The hardship has not deterred this young man. James was determined to finish his studies. Equipped with the technology and the knowledge he acquired from the PC refurbishment course, James works as a part-time technician in a computer shop near his school. James also shares his time and expertise in the ATRIEV ADOC during his free time. Patience, perseverance and potentials are the three qualities that will lead this young man making his dream a reality.

Helping Visually Impaired Find the Way

Syamil Ashar bin Nasarudin, born in January 1988 in Selangor of Malaysia, was the second born in a family with seven children. Raising seven children is really not an easy thing for the Nsarudin family. Therefore, at a young age, Syamil had determined to share the financial burden of the family after growing up.

Unlike his healthy siblings, Syamil was a premature baby. He suffered from some minor health problems since his childhood. In spite of this, he still started his primary education at a normal school at the age of seven, and enjoyed school time with his classmates.

When Syamil was a fourth grader (ten years old), he found that his vision deteriorated, which after extensive tests was regrettably determined and certified to be blindness. What a big blow! Syamil was so overwhelmed by the bad news. Being blind not only meant his eyesight was seriously impaired, but also implied that his future would be helpless and hopeless.

After crying days and nights, Syamil, being resilient by nature, gradually restored calm and learned to face the reality. He didn’t drop from school. Instead, he continued with his primary and secondary education until he graduated from St. Johns Institution at the age of 18.

Refusing to surrender to his physical impairments, he decided to find a job. However, most of the job-seeking applications he sent yielded no results, making him almost believe that he would never be employed due to his blindness.

Every cloud has a silver lining. In December 2012, as Syamil was very depressed about his future, he accidentally learned of the Contact Center Training Program conducted by the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) in collaboration with the ADOC Porject. The opportunity lighted a candle of hope for him. In February 2013, he became the first group of trainees in the program.

In the training center, Syamil was introduced to a special operating software telephone interview system for the visually impaired (TISVI). The special software enables the blind and visually impaired persons to operate the call center on a par with the sighted colleagues. In addition to learning to operate TISVI, soft skills such as communication in both Malay and English were also provided in the program. Little by little, Syamil became more confident in his ability to work independently. After completing the first two months in the MAB training center, Syamil was sent to a real contact center in the Petaling Jaya Town Council for practical training, which he found extremely useful and helpful.

After Syamil finished his three-month practical training, the employee placement officers in MAB actively assisted Syamil in finding a position in a reputed company, Tan Chong Motors. Syamil therefore became the first trained blind to work in a contact center in Malaysia. This is not only a success to Syamil, but also an achievement to MAB. The organization gained fame because of Syamil’s story. More and more people are aware of the association and the MAB-ADOC partnership, which greatly helps other trained blinds under the same training program to find their jobs.

With a decent salary, Syamil now can make a living by himself and also support the family. His childhood’s dream finally comes true. He sincerely appreciates MAB-ADOC joint venture, which provides visually-impaired people with services and opportunities for greater participation, involvement, and integration into society. Syamil thinks that the MAB-ADOC project is a godsend, as it leads him to get in touch with the real society and “see” the world. Although he is blind, his mind was opened, and his horizon broadened.

Life can be pleasant if you find the way. For Syamil, the MAB-ADOC project is his way. It is also his belief that the cooperative project will help more needed people find their way.

Helping Visually Impaired Gain a Bright Life

“Subang Jaya Medical Centre. May I help you?” These are the words Anas I’zati Binti Md Noor says to start the morning every working day. For any ordinary person, it carries
nothing special; but it means a lot to Anas.

Anas I’zati binti Md Noor was born in November 1989 and she came from a small town in Kedah, the “rice bowl” of Malaysia. When she was newly born, the doctor found that her lenses were milky white and her optic nerve was seriously damaged. She was unfortunately diagnosed with cataract and glaucoma.

The family didn’t give Anas up, and raised her as a normal kid. When Anas was seven years old, she went to elementary school like the other four kids in the family. With limited vision, she had to double her efforts to catch up with her classmates. She successfully completed her primary and secondary education at normal schools with the support of her loving family. However, just as she rejoined over her forthcoming college life, she found that her vision deteriorated and was close to blindness.

The serious visual impairment destroyed Anas’ plan to continue further education, impacted her daily life, left her being dependent and helpless. Looking at Anas, her father felt so sorry and upset. After long consideration, he decided to take her to St. Nicholas School for the blind in Penang, where Anas would learn Braille to help her read and adjust living habits by using a cane in her daily life. Little by little, Anas got more independent and restored her confidence. Later, she was accepted by the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, and majored in media study. In 2012, she graduated with honors. Things seemed to go smoothly, but Anas still worried that whether she could find a job as a visually impaired person, even though she has a college degree.

It seemed that her concern was heard by Allah. In January 2013, Anas learned of the Contact Centre Training Program, which was conducted by the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) in collaboration with the ADOC project. The project welcomed anyone with any level of computer ability, especially the disadvantaged groups in remote areas, including women and children.

Believing that it was really a good opportunity for her, Anas immediately applied the program and got accepted. In the beginning, she took part in a two-month, inclassroom training session. She soon found the training rewarding as learning to use computer and the Internet opened a window for her, so that she could “see” the world that she had never known. In April 2013, she completed her training, and was offered an onthe-job training opportunity at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). She worked as a customer service officer for six months.

In February 2014, with the assistance of MAB, Anas fortunately got a chance to work for Subang Jaya Medical Centre (formerly Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care) as a contract agent at the contact centre. God helps those who help themselves. Due to her hard work and good performance on that position, Anas’ manager promoted her as a permanent staff since February 2014.

From worrying about being unemployed, to becoming a permanent staff, Anas attributed the achievement to the ADOC project. She felt grateful for the precious opportunity. Over the years it was always other people including her parents, siblings, and friends that gave a helping hand to her. And now, she can stand on her own feet, and even can contribute to her family. Therefore, whenever she says “May I help you” in her work, she feels very satisfied and energetic because it is indeed a long road for her to find her own value.