By Wieland Holfelder, Engineering Director at Google Germany
In January 2016, Google and NetHope started Project Reconnect with the joint goal of providing refugees in Germany with access to online information and educational resources. To this end, Project Reconnect is distributing 25,000 Chromebooks to organizations working with refugees in Germany. Google.org, Google's philanthropic arm, donated $5 million to NetHope for Project Reconnect. Charitable organizations that work with refugees in Germany were invited to apply and the response was overwhelming.
We recently made public the list of grantees receiving Chromebooks. Here are a few examples of those organizations, and how they are using the technology to help refugees start a new life.
Asylplus e. V. is one example of the many organizations that are focused on supporting refugees in Germany. The nonprofit organization, which is receiving 500 Chromebooks, helps asylum seekers and recognized refugees to learn the German language and gain valuable skills to integrate into the German culture and settle into a new life in their host country.
Asylplus distributes laptops and PCs equipped with preconfigured access to the Asylplus learning platform, and distributes them to local initiatives and volunteer projects all over Germany in welcome centers, refugee homes, community centers and libraries.
"We are thrilled about the 500 Chromebooks," said Dr. Thomas von Rueden, co-founder of Asylplus. "The Chromebooks are easy to configure and manage which allows us to focus our energy on the direct contact with refugees and new ideas."
Some of the Chromebooks will be used in public libraries in Munich; others will be used in communities in Bavaria and other states. Von Rueden sees a huge advantage in the way the Chromebooks allow for an easily customizable user experience, thanks to the centrally administered management console. Programs, content and materials can be shared in a way that addresses the needs at individual facilities.
Another Project Reconnect grantee is Verband der Volkshochschulen des Saarlandes e. V., which coordinates 16 adult education centers in the state of Saarland, Germany. "In the German language and integration courses that our adult education centers offer, we do not have enough spots to fulfill the increasing demand. Many refugees had to wait for a long time for a spot in a class,” said Karsten Schneider, director of the association. According to Schneider, these "learning cafés" help to reduce long waiting times on courses and they help to create learning achievements and perspectives. Karsten Schneider: "It gives me great pleasure to see that young people can learn a lot using the Chromebooks."
The association uses 500 Chromebooks primarily to install learning cafes in its adult education centers, where refugees can start learning German immediately with dedicated online language programs.
Many organizations make helpful and relevant content for refugees available online. The Project Reconnect Team has compiled these resources on a content discovery page for organizations working with refugees in German, http://reconnect.nethope.org/resources (German language). Here, users will find example links to educational materials from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, a guidebook for refugees in Arabic from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and tutorials to learn programming from Codecademy.
We would like to take this opportunity to again thank all organizations and associations that have expressed an interest in Project Reconnect and who are working to support refugees.
This is a cross-post from Google Germany, and has been translated into English.