A new opportunity for the future without a digital divide

Candela, Aya, Denisa and Bárbara did not meet until this year despite the similar experiences they have had to face.

A new opportunity for the future without a digital divide

Candela, Aya, Denisa and Bárbara did not meet until this year despite the similar experiences they have had to face. Their lives run almost in parallel: the four young women dropped out of high school at the age of 16, they belong to families in vulnerable situations and the difficult economic crisis they are going through has tattooed the digital divide on them, despite being part of the generation that, in theory, the better you know how to use technologies. With effort and overcoming, they fight to put an end to difficulties, to a future without options, and pursue a new life, this time, within the classrooms of the Training and Labor Insertion Unit (UFIL).

Denisa was the last to set foot in the UFIL San Ramón, in the town of Parla.

She arrived in February determined to learn aesthetics after saying goodbye to the institute where she was studying five months earlier. «I felt that it was not my thing, I did not see myself capable. She was stuck », she says about the high school studies she was studying until then. "She couldn't go on like this anymore," she acknowledges.

There she met her classmates: Aya and Bárbara study aesthetics, like her; Candela (fictitious name) opted for hairdressing. Now, they form a group that battles, along with 40 other young people between 16 and 20 years old, to change their reality, some also in the automotive course, and who walk through the center's corridors every day, during school hours. “We entered at 8:30 a.m. and left at 2:30 p.m. We started giving classes in History, Language, Mathematics... Everything we need to know in the future, like anywhere", explains Denisa: "Then, we entered the workshop". Hair removal, massage, makeup, nails... They learn all the branches of what they want to dedicate themselves to. And, in addition, they prepare for working life, emphasizing learning digital skills.

Andrea Alcobendas, a Plan International project trainer, an NGO managed by UFIL created in the 2017-2018 academic year to provide adequate training to young people at risk of social exclusion, is in charge of giving this type of workshop. “Beyond teaching them how to write a resume or an interview, we teach them to know their strengths, their challenges and how to improve. From the basics of social skills to any digital competence that will help them in their job search," says the person in charge, who summarizes: "They break barriers."

This workshop is given with five computers donated by Madrid Futuro thanks to the Circular Economy initiative, which gives a second life to devices provided by companies. In two months, 122 computers have been distributed to charitable associations, benefiting a thousand families. In the UFIL of Madrid, 22 of them have finished, giving service to 300 vulnerable young people. Now, they are studying expanding the donation service for all those individuals who want to deliver a device that they no longer use. They recondition it and hand it over to an association.

Back in the beauty room, Aya and Bárbara perform a manicure. The first one is 17 years old; the second, 18, the only one of legal age in this group. “I didn't even know how to speak Spanish well. I felt very uncomfortable in high school,” says Aya, who was born in Morocco. She was a teacher who told her about UFIL and every morning, since September, she gets up at 6 in order to one day work as a manicurist. Like Bárbara, she who already did hairdressing two years before. “I was very bad in high school. Aesthetics motivates me because I am very creative”, says this young woman.

In the adjoining room, Candela, 16, molds a wig with tongs. She arrived at the center in January after leaving an institute in Fuenlabrada because her classmates were 'bullying' her. "They attacked me, they messed with me when I gave my opinion or asked questions in class and I entered a cycle of anxiety in which I didn't even want to leave the house," she says. All those experiences try to leave them behind. There is only one option: carve out a new life that would not be possible without this chain between entities and their desire to improve.