This weekend we had a special event in our office - the pilot event of Refugees On Rails here in Cologne. 16 participants from many different countries of the world (e.g. Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh) came to learn about web development with Ruby on Rails and had a very good time.
The previous knowledge of the participants had a very high variation. For some it was the first contact ever with programming and web technology, others already had degrees in computer science and previous programming experience in other languages and fields. But thanks to our flexible and knowledgeable volunteer coaches everybody was able to learn something. As content of the workshop we used the Rails Girls App Tutorial materials which is a good fit even for very beginners, but still leaves a lot of room for more advanced exercises.
But actually the main goal of the event was connecting people. For us as coaches and organizers it was a great opportunity to hear about the stories and background of the participants and being able to form our own images, independently of the (often skewed) pictures painted by the media. Hopefully the participants were able to make some meaningful connections that will help them with their careers and got to know a little bit of what the local tech community can offer them. They also got to know other refugees with similar interests, which is just as important.
The big question is what will happen after this first pilot event? We are planning to meet again regularly (e.g. this coming Thursday at 19:00) and a couple of ideas were circulating about projects that could be worked on (maybe personal websites, or a small platform for refugees). We are very excited about what will happen in the future.
At the end we want to say thank you again to all the coaches and other volunteers, to all the private laptop donors, to Nexum for donating laptops, to ComputerProjekt Köln e.V. for borrowing additional laptops, to Refugees On Rails Berlin for their support, to all the people that helped to spread our event, and of course to all the participants.