Technology at Las Tias
Since Spark’s partnership with Las Tías in Nicaragua began, the women-led organization has grown to include two thriving community centers that provide over 150 youth with meals, education, job skills training, and reliable physical and mental health care. With the help of Spark supporters, Las Tías has been able to expand their library, create a children’s activities room, improve their facilities, offer math and literacy programming for mothers of Las Tias students, and vocational skills training for the mothers and community members. In 2021, the leadership team at Las Tías outlined a new, youth-centered proposal to increase computer literacy. Over the past two years, Spark and Las Tías have worked extensively to provide technological opportunities for their beneficiaries, with powerful results.
The first implementation of this proposal centered on a computer lab at Las Tías, made possible by some generous Spark supporters. The computer lab is housed in the 14-18 age group community center, currently holds 35 computers, and has a dedicated instructor. A computer literacy program is hosted there. Commencing in October 2022, this literacy program is already popular with students and staff. A social worker from Las Tías is responsible for bringing the younger students, twice a week, to the lab for their computer classes. The classes, coupled with reinforcement of mathematics and English lessons has greatly increased the educational growth of the teen beneficiaries. Students report that, despite the difficulty of the classes, they enjoy the challenge and are excited to continue learning new skills.
The staff at Las Tías also benefits from their computer literacy classes. For one hour a week, five professional staff receive intermediate-level Excel training, to enrich their knowledge and facilitate better job performance. This course is taught by literacy teacher Nelson Josué Martínez Borge, who also serves as the instructor for the youth literacy program. The teachers who participate in the course find it particularly useful when creating reports. From October to December, staff participated in an intensive workshop; featuring six sessions aimed at improving general knowledge on specific topics. At the end of the sessions, knowledge and application of certain skills, including basic and complex Excel shortcuts, customization of dynamic tables and graphs, and mathematical formulas, increased from 27% to 78%!
This past November, students utilized applications such as WordPad, Microsoft Word, and WordArt to create comparative charts, food pyramids, and letter designs. Students practiced the names of computer parts and elements with word searches, and spent time creating congratulation letters, presentations, and even surveys! Beneficiaries of both the youth and teen programs received participation grades of 85% or above, and were taught all topics proposed for the month of November.