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How Nancy Allotey Benefited from ICDL

Profile of Nancy Allotey

By Noreen Shanahan

Nancy Allotey stepped into the ICDL lab at WoodGreen Community Services and immediately felt her self-confidence grow. An immigrant from Ghana, West Africa, Nancy wanted to permanently shift her worksite from the factory floor to an office setting. Before her children were born she had briefly worked in an administrative capacity at the Royal Bank and loved it. But her computer skills were now obsolete. She learned about WoodGreen’s ICDL program at the Scott Mission in Toronto. After eight months on a waiting list she began her first module.

“I depended on my son to help me with computers, you know, teach me this, do me that, you know young teenagers, they don’t have the patience for this kind of thing. ICDL gave me the opportunity to come back in a course that I could afford.”

But it was a challenge. Tests terrified Nancy and she resisted doing them. Thanks to her teacher’s encouragement and ‘tough love’ approach she finally leapt into the cold water and discovered she could swim. “You know what? I did good! I passed! I went into the washroom and I was just crying. I thought: I’ve been sitting here the whole time, I could have just finished with this, you know? I got 88 percent.”

She passed all seven modules and soon landed a new job in a non-profit organization, using the skills she learned in the ICDL program. “I use Word a lot. I use PowerPoint. I use Excel. And then I am always on the internet, getting in contact with people, touching base with them.” Yesterday her boss asked her to design a flyer for a conference. Once again, her self-confidence soared when she looked at him and said “sure.”

“ICDL has helped me. It has given me back my image.” 

Nancy also enjoyed the camaraderie in the classroom as fellow students worked through assignments. “When I got in, they were doing the module Word. And there were people that Word was the last module for them. And then new people came, so it was like a refreshing thing; every time you start a new module, some people are going, other people are coming, so it gave that effect on me, which was good.”

How did she celebrate once the course was completed? “I was so happy! I love chocolate, so that’s what I bought myself (to celebrate).”

Nancy is one of several new Canadians in Toronto’s ICDL programs. WoodGreen often refers people from the organization’s Immigrant Services unit, located just down the hall from the ICDL computer lab, to ICDL instructor Arthur Ayvazian’s classroom.

“There are several reasons why this is an excellent course for new immigrants,” said Arthur. “Although it’s a computer course per se it also offers people the chance to network, make friends, and increase their language skills and self-esteem.

“So they are actually working on many objectives, although they come in to increase their computer skills, which will make their resume a stronger resume, they also get these other added benefits.”

One of Arthur’s previous students is now a volunteer tutor in the ICDL lab. In 2008, Audrey Smardenka was laid off and looking for an opportunity to upgrade her computer skills. She checked out various community colleges and found them cost prohibitive. An employment counsellor suggested ICDL training.

“The lady there told me, you know what? There’s a fantastic teacher, his name is Arthur, at this place. She said if you had to pay for this program, it would cost you more than a thousand dollars. I was checking on Ryerson, and at Ryerson you’ve got to have a pre-requisite for every module, whereas this one is seamless, you can just come in and just go and do all seven modules of Microsoft. You cannot do that at a university, so I think it’s fantastic.”