IIST Student Opens Computer Center for Low-Income Women

Elyaa Hammad, Olivia Blackmon
Elyaa Hammad (left), student/founder, with Dr. Olivia Blackmon (right), assistant director of GW’s IIST Program at the computer center’s opening on April 18
April 20, 2017

“Today is an exciting day,” said Elyaa Hammad, a student in GW’s Integrated Information, Science and Technology (IIST) program. “I began work on this center as a capstone project for my academic program, but today’s opening of the Muslim Women’s Computer Lab has become much more. It will help Muslim women and low-income families learn basic computer skills.”

Hammad recently won first place in the Social Justice and Economic Empowerment category for her work on “Empowering Muslim Women through Computer Literacy” at the GW Research Days competition. She recognized a need to increase computer literacy skills in her community, created a sustainable business model for the center and found innovative ways to raise funds and support for the project.

She started by buying nine computers from an auction with her own money. Then she successfully built a partnership with “Computer Core,” a non-profit organization which donated 12 computers to the cause.

After that she launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for tables, chairs, and basic equipment.

Computer lab before renovations
The computer center space before renovations. 

Her campaign was nominated for GoFundMe’s Gives Back program for January 2017 and awarded a $1,000 contribution towards her efforts. “I am happy to see the support networks being created for strong, independent Muslim women who are facing more and more adversity each day. Your goal is admirable and I’m hoping our contribution helps you accomplish all your efforts for years to come,” said Dave, community management specialist at GoFundMe, in an email to Elyaa.

Hammad said the 24-seat computer lab will be used to actively support community members pursuing employment. They need access to computers for resume writing and submission of job applications. “I am specifically looking to support Muslim women who are widowed or divorced and don’t receive financial support from males,” said Hammad.

Computer Center on Opening Day
The Computer Center on opening day.

The lab will also be used to assist immigrants as they navigate the complex immigration system and submit applications to the government with the help of trained volunteers. In addition, two computer classes will be taught weekly starting at the end of April 2017 to raise computer literacy levels.

The Center will be physically hosted at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, whose support has been critical to the success of the project.  The computer lab will be open every Saturday for public use.

The opening ceremony is a milestone for the Center, but just the beginning of its impact on the community. Hammad has already raised $4,920 from the GoFundMe page and procured enough computers to open the center, but her fundraising goal of $10,000 before the end of May 2017 will provide stability for the Center’s activities to continue for at least 5 years. 

She is a student on a mission to make a difference in the lives of others!  She has been supported in her efforts by Dr. Olivia Blackmon and Dr. Sarah Hooshangi, faculty members in the IIST program, Computer Core, GoFundMe’s Gives Back program, the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center and more than 45 individual contributors.