Women’s shelters offer an important safe haven, a place where victims of violence and their children can seek refuge and, ultimately, become self-sufficient.
This journey to self-sufficiency, however, is not easy. Business Apps MVP Mary Thompson says that a lack of stability and quality opportunities are the biggest challenges for these women, and this is especially difficult at shelters without the digital resources to enable job searches or online study.
This is why Mary has established a tech center for women and other disadvantaged groups that enables them to learn about technology and transform their lives.
Mary is on a mission to empower as many people as possible to reach their maximum potential and says that she saw a unique opportunity to do so in her home state of South Carolina.
Launching a tech hub at the local women’s shelter — complete with computer, internet, and printer access — offers an important stepping stone for the women to connect with the wider world and better plan for their future, Mary says. Applying for jobs and work is now easier thanks to the center, as is submitting the necessary paperwork to keep the government assistance that helps these women to get out on their own.
Moreover, Mary says: “The tech center also gives them the ability to digitally upskill, which provides better jobs with better pay, and ultimately more stability. Some women have even started some online classes for medical coding and paralegal work.”
Importantly, since children live at the shelter as well, the tech center provides them with internet access to complete remote school work during the pandemic.
Mary views technology as the most impactful way to maximize any individual’s potential and says she felt driven to reach a group of people that could benefit most from a life change.
“I wanted to help women that had backgrounds and stories that weren’t too terribly different from my own. And I know what a difference tech made to me, so I wanted to share that with them as well,” she says.
“My vision for the tech center is to create a culture of developing tech skills. A place where they know that they go, learn new skills, and — boom — change their life by entering the tech industry.”
Mary credits local stakeholders for helping the center to develop to where it is today, and hopes positive outcomes from the initiative can lead to further tech centers across the state of South Carolina.
“It’s all about paying it forward and taking care of others. That is why I’m passionate about helping the shelter. People have helped me so I wouldn’t be in a shelter and people helped me to get my tech career started — both were life-changing and it’s about bringing that to others.”