Thanks largely to Digital Capital (DC) Week I started volunteering again by accident. On that Saturday I signed up for the Bridging DC's Digital Divide panel, hosted by Bread for the City. I arrived to find that this was part of a bigger event, the Discovering Technology Fair (a 'DiscoTech') organized by the Broadband Bridge. There was a line out the door, with more than 200 DC residents in attendance. Greg Bloom, who I had not met, saw me standing around confused and asked if I could help an elderly grandmother get online. I couldn't say no so I grabbed my laptop and sat down with "Mama" Jones to help her get online with a laptop she recently bought.
Eighty-year old Xiao Lian and her son Zhang Lian from the Philippines sat patiently waiting. They inherited a MacBook and iPad from the Zhang's uncle who died unexpectedly, but they had no experience with computers. They wanted to use the laptop and iPad to Skype with Zhang's brother in Hong Kong. Together we installed Skype on both devices, created an account, tested with my account and then called Hong Kong. On the other end was Zhang's brother and his newborn son who Xiao had never seen. As tears welled up in her eyes she thanked me. Meanwhile a man quietly sat nearby with his digital camera.
"Can you email me my photos," Jamal from Cairo asked. "I bought this camera last year and now it is full of photos and doesn't work anymore." This is a problem my own mother has and every Christmas I go home to look through the hundreds of photos she took that year and email them to her friends. Together Jamal and I performed a similar exercise, but his photos were of Helen Thomas, Mayor Grey, Mayor Fenty, and the General of Egypt. One by one I emailed him his photos and deleted them off his camera so he could once again take more photos.
After five hours the crowd had diminished, I had missed every seminar I came to attend and couldn't have been happier. The experience opened my eyes that my services are just as needed here in our nation's capitol as they are in developing nations around the world. After years of volunteering, I have found that giving back is more rewarding than ever.
If you would like to get involved with the DiscoTech or Broadband Bridge click here.