There is the Iraqi doctor, weary from treating countless people torn apart by bomb blasts, now searching for a job in the medical profession in San Diego County.
And there is the older couple who speak in halting English about learning to use the computer to e-mail their family in the Middle East.
There’s also Evon Mansour, a 42-year-old El Cajon woman who not too long ago didn’t know how to handle a computer’s mouse. “I didn’t know anything about the Internet, and now, I have learned everything,” said Mansour, originally from Iraq.
They all are students of the San Diego County Library’s Gateway/Al-Bawaba Internet Classes, a nationally-recognized program for Arabic speakers offered at five East County locations.
“This groundbreaking work builds a bridge to Arabic-speaking residents, empowering them to build safer, healthier and more prosperous communities with access to the latest state-of-the-art technology and quality library collections,” said County Library Director José Aponte.
The free classes cover everything from the most basic – the keyboard, the mouse and turning the computer on and off – to navigating the Internet, including downloading music, sharing photos and videoconferencing. They also learn how to use translating software available on the Library’s Web site.
Students are mostly recent immigrants from Iraq, as well as Egypt and Morocco. Instructors lead the class in Arabic, and use a bilingual handbook.
In June, the American Library Association honored Gateway/Al-Bawaba with the Library of the Future Award.
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