Comkids is a Canadian charity aimed at giving young people access to technology, digital literacy, and life skills so they can reach their full potential. We spoke with Leah Ali, Acting Executive Director of ComKids, to learn more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
ComKids is a Canadian charity that empowers students with digital access and digital skills to unlock their full potential.
What problem does it aim to solve?
ComKids addresses the digital inequity that so many students are experiencing by providing young people, who do not have consistent access to technology at home, with a new device and digital literacy training. We know that when a student lacks digital access, they face an unfair disadvantage compared to their peers, so by providing essential technology and training, we can reduce the digital divide and ensure digital equity so that young people have an opportunity to learn and excel in school.
When did you start/join it?
I started as the Program Coordinator in August 2016.
What made you want to get involved?
As a second-generation immigrant and the daughter to a teacher, the importance of education has always been instilled in me. My parents taught me that education was a tool that would help me to create the life I wanted.
Now, so much of a young person’s education is wrapped into having access to a computer, but so many still lack digital access in their homes. ComKids understands the importance of education and the role it plays in a young person’s life and that’s why we provide the tools and training to support their journey and unlock their potential.
What was the situation like when you started?
On a large scale, the digital divide wasn’t discussed that much. Of course, we knew that the digital divide was a growing issue as the charity was supporting over 500 youth a year with new technology, but the issue of digital inequity didn’t gain a lot of attention from folks who weren’t a part of the school community.
How has it changed since?
The pandemic absolutely shined a light on the digital divide. The issue went from not being discussed often to school boards had to get creative to source and distribute thousands of devices in mere days so students could learn. It was as if the whole world, at the same time, realized how necessary digital access is. I feel like now, when speaking to folks in the community about the work we do, everyone has a better understanding of the importance of technology and how it relates to education.
But now, I feel like there is another shift happening and it’s this move from not just ensuring that every young person has access to a device, but that students are also gaining the skills and knowledge to learn how to use technology safely and become confident digital citizens.
What more needs to be done?
Some school boards are making great improvements to ensuring digital access by developing initiatives that provide students with a device for the school year. Still, unfortunately, not all school boards are able to do that. Digital literacy training is an area that continues to grow and evolve– new programs and learning opportunities are constantly being developed. To me, the digital literacy training piece is just as important as the hardware because these learnings are vital to helping mitigate the risk of social media harm that could happen due to online engagement. Training on digital social responsibility can teach young people how to remain safe online and build healthier online communities for their peers.
How can our readers help?
We are always looking for new volunteers for our events. Donations are always appreciated and can be made through our website.
Do you have any events coming up?
We host two fabulous fundraising events every year– our Masquerade Ball which will be held on October 27th, 2022, at Casa Loma and our Celebrity Sports Mixer in April at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity/non-profit that you love?
1. Deeply Rooted Farmers Market
2. Nia Centre for the Arts
3. Black Boys Code