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iSisters and OCISO: New Technologies = New Opportunities


iSisters Technology Mentoring connects women in need with opportunities to become more technologically literate through learning programs in the Ottawa area.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2011, the organization has grown from a group of volunteer teachers supporting pregnant teens at St. Mary's Home in 2001 to a wide-reaching series of partnerships with such charitable organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa, Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the Youville Centre, Immigrant Women Services Ottawa, Cornerstone Women's Shelter, and St Joe's Women's Centre.

With the support of a grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa, iSisters opened its eighth Technology and Learning Centre in partnership with Ottawa Community Immigrant Services of Ottawa (OCISO) in 2010. Modeled on the employment support program at Immigrant Women Services Ottawa, which graduates 30-40 women every three weeks, the new centre makes iSisters' services accessible to new Canadian women in Ottawa's west end.

"This OCISO program allows participants to learn 21st century job skills that are key to helping women gain financial stability," says Jolynn Sommervill, Executive Director of iSisters. "By providing free access to customized learning programs for unemployed and marginalized immigrant women, iSisters is able to help them to increase their economic independence while significantly improving their self-esteem. With the support of the grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa, we can now reach a whole new community of women in need."

Launched on International Women's Day, the newest Technology and Learning Centre opened its doors at OCISO in early April 2011. Seventeen women enrolled and graduated from the first level of classes that ran through the spring. "Many of the students in our programs have little or no experience using technology and limited educational backgrounds, so they are often intimidated by the traditional classroom setting," says Jolynn. "That's why their first graduation is such a momentous and exciting occasion for everyone involved. It truly is a stepping stone to improved quality of life for many of the participants."

In their own words, here is how some of the participants, teachers and community partners describe the iSisters experience:

  • "The iSisters program opened many, many locked doors in front of me. I have a new job. They gave me the job because of my computer skills. I'm still coming to the class directly after finishing my night shift and without having any sleep because I don't want to miss any minute of (the iSisters) class." - Learner
  • "The (iSisters) computer course has helped me in achieving my goals. Right now I am taking a Masters course at Ottawa University where I need computer skills. When I started last July, I did not know the names of the components of the computer. Now, I am fluent in Microsoft Office, using Excel for graphs and formulas and more." - Learner
  • "As an instructor, I get to observe how these courses help my students overcome their fear of technology, improve their computer skills and connect with their loved ones every day. My students are a source of inspiration for me." - Instructor
  • "The iSisters partnership is offering a window of opportunity to facilitate hi-tech skills while nurturing self-esteem and building confidence in students and teachers alike." - Community Partner

For more information about iSisters Technology Mentoring, visit

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