VoiceRaising

VoiceRaising

Myanmar
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

VoiceRaising links university students to refugees in developing countries. Using web-conferencing, students help refugees improve their English through online classes. This improves the refugees’ job prospects and opens avenues of social activism. Students and refugees together write blog entries to inform the university about the refugees' stories.

About You
Organization:
Burma 88 Coalition
Section 1: About You
First Name

Jeff

Last Name

Katz

Website
Organization

Burma 88 Coalition

Country
Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Burma 88 Coalition

Organization Phone

215-499-7415

Organization Address

Columbia University - 415 W. 115th Street New York, NY

Organization Country
Your idea
Will you launch your idea as a business or non-profit?

Non-profit

Country your work focuses on
What will be the impact of your idea? 

*Refugees*
By blogging, refugees learn to be their own global advocates. As refugee communities must petition the UN and other organizations for assistance, this skill is valuable. Because the advocacy is often done in English, by increasing the number of English speaking individuals, more refugees can be advocates. English also makes the refugees more attractive for jobs and enables them to report abuse from locals to the relevant authorities.
*University Students*
First, students learn about the challenges facing impoverished communities through a different lens than classroom experience provides. This should bring better informed classroom discussions regarding these challenges. Second, for service groups on campus, the blogs’ information may help to developing effective initiatives. Later blogging will evaluate these initiatives. Thus, our blogs can help to improve the services delivered to the refugees, in the same way a reporter covering a local school district may improve the education delivered to students.

Who will help you develop your idea? Why are you the one to make this happen?

This program grew out of my internship in Delhi, where I interviewed the local Burmese refugees to recommend needed services to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We eventually wrote a report on our findings, as did the UNHCR itself, yet the recommendations in both reports were ultimately ignored by the UNHCR.
After that experience, I learned that, while publicizing information on a community's challenges is important, for that information to produce meaningful changes, it must be targeted at the proper audience. And sometimes that audience is not an international organization like the UN, but a student organization on campus. That our own organization provides a needed service (by teaching English to the refugees) is a testament to that. Months ago, we had our first class (see photos from Delhi of the class).
Assistance provided by:
Digital Democracy, a non-profit using new media to assist refugees. Burma IT, who offered its computer labs in New Delhi, and other locations for use in this program. We teach refugees who graduated from the Falam Group’s English courses in Delhi. As a Columbia U law student, I am around many activists and scholars.

How much will it cost to launch your idea? (This can be an estimate)

This will cost $25k.
First, note that there are no overhead expenses associated with this project, because the administrative work is being done either by university students or BIT staff on a voluntary basis. Most expenses are one-time capital expenses.
By the end of 2010, we hope to run this at three computer labs (ideally with a different university associated with each computer lab). Given the demand for this project (both among university students and refugees) we would like to add fifteen computers to each computer lab***.

Anticipated Expenses*
• Adobe Web Connect**=($50/month)x5 accounts per lab=$250x3 computer labs= $750x8 months = $6,000
• Webcams/headsets = $80x100 = $8,000
• Shipping costs of computers***= $150 per computerx55 = $8,250
• Accessories (printers, scanners, digital cameras, website design/update) = $2,750
*Note that we increased hardware purchases to accommodate for amortization).
**This software is now provided by the school, but as we increase the number of students/schools involved, we must purchase our own.
***Lockheed Martin has agreed to donate old laptop computers for this project. We must pay shipping costs.