Lauren Altus is a communications intern at Sanctuary and a recent graduate from Johns Hopkins University.
In December of 2017, longtime partner law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP donated 60 refurbished desktop computers to Sanctuary with the special help of Partner Francesca L. Odell, Pro Bono Immigration Attorney Kyle Dandelet, and Global IT Special Project Leader Lenis M. Santos. Because of this generous donation, 60 survivors and their families were able to use these computers for a wide array of activities that helped them stabilize their lives as well as prepare for the future.
Many of the families Sanctuary works with are immigrants, low income, or live in shelters. These computers have provided resources that many people take for granted in their day to day lives. The computers went to families currently engaged in services through Sanctuary’s Clinical Department (18), Economic Empowerment Program (10), and Legal Department (32).
Here are some ways in which the computer donations have impacted the lives of the families we’re working with:
Starting a New Business
35-year old David lives in Brooklyn and is currently the sole provider for his sister, brother, and disabled mother and father. Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project (IIP) attorneys are helping David formalize his immigration status through asylum. In the interim, David has a work permit which IIP is helping him renew. The desktop computer he recently received will help him launch his new construction business.
Obtaining a High School Equivalency Diploma
Natasha was born in Guinea and is a single mother to her daughter. In August 2017, months after receiving her Green Card, Natasha enrolled in Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) at the age of 42. Although she was clearly motivated and eager to learn, one of Natasha’s first barriers to obtaining a living wage job was her lack of a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma.
While in EEP, Natasha worked incredibly hard and since graduating, she has remained dedicated to her goals. Natasha is currently enrolled in a complimentary workforce development training program offered through SUNY’s Advanced Technology and Information Network (ATTAIN) and is working on getting her HSE. She recently took the predictor for the HSE and passed nearly all sections.
The desktop computer Natasha received has allowed her to complete homework assignments and follow-up MS Office Suite trainings so she can finally receive her diploma and move forward with her vocational skills and eventual career. After working as a Home Health Aide for the past 6 years, Natasha hopes to use the skills she learned in EEP to find a job in an office or administrative setting.
Helping Children with School
At the age of 34, Lauren is a single parent and sole supporter of two teenage sons and an infant. Originally from El Salvador, today, they live together in New Jersey.
Currently, the family’s finances are tight as Lauren’s infant son has many medical problems due to a congenital heart condition. Lauren is engaged in comprehensive immigration services with Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project, and has a work permit connected to her pending asylum petition. Lauren reports that the desktop computer she received will help her children succeed in school by enabling them to complete homework assignments and eventually apply to college. Without the computer, her children would struggle to research homework questions, type assignments, and complete projects for their classes. Now that they have a computer, her children’s access to education is one less concern for Lauren.
Originally from Mexico, Lorenza is a single mother and the sole provider for her household. Recently, she and her 2-year-old daughter moved from one of Sanctuary’s confidential shelters into a NYCHA apartment in Manhattan. Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project attorneys are also helping Lorenza apply for U Visa status.
To make ends meet, Lorenza currently works part-time as a housekeeper, and also depends on the cash and SNAP benefits she receives on behalf of her daughter. Lorenza is a monolingual Spanish-speaker, and to improve her English proficiency she is attending ESL classes. The desktop computer Lorenza received is helping her practice English and complete her homework. Lorenza also plans to explore the Microsoft Office programs which will allow her to apply for office jobs in the future.
Originally from Venezuela, Andres is working with Sanctuary to apply for asylum. Both his initial work permit and petition for asylum are pending but Andres reports that in the interim, the desktop computer he received is helping him work toward his goals of job training, beginning a meaningful career, and eventually achieving self-sufficiency.
Sadie, 32, currently lives with and supports her 2-year-old daughter. This past July, Sadie escaped the abusive relationship she had been in for the past six years after her ex-partner’s erratic and violent abuse towards her, their daughter, and their family pet escalated. Throughout the relationship, her abuser was possessive and controlling, going so far as to call her coworkers and employers to make sure she was at work. He often drove the family while under the influence, and he used illegal substances while caring for their infant daughter. Sadie fled to Ohio where she felt she would be safe with her family. Ensuing court orders, however, forced her to return to New York without most of her belongings.
With help from Sanctuary’s Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP), Sadie obtained a Temporary Order of Protection against her abuser in October 2017 and is currently engaged in a contentious custody/visitation matter. Sadie is also participating in counseling offered through Sanctuary’s Clinical Department.
The computer donation has made it possible for Sadie to work remotely, giving her the flexibility she needs to care for her daughter and eventually return to school. With the long-term stability of her family in mind, Sadie hopes to return to City University of New York in fall 2018.
We are so grateful for our longstanding partnership with Cleary Gottlieb, one that goes far beyond pro bono representation. To the team at Cleary, and on behalf of all the families who benefitted from this donation, thank you for this generous gift. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for the recipients of these computers.