Google.org announced a $5.3 million grant today to NetHope, a German nonprofit that provides education and technology for refugees.
The grant money, channeled through NetHope, is providing 25,000 Chromebooks, which are lightweight laptops, to various German nonprofits that are supporting refugees.
"There has been a major break in refugees' lives in terms of access to education," Roya Soleimani, a Google Communications Manager, told The Huffington Post. "Although many of them were educated in their home countries, they have had to start all over again in Europe."
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the tech giant, first worked with NetHope last fall, and singled it out as a partner that could make inroads in refugee education. The Chromebooks that NetHope will receive in early February are light, cheap laptops that run exclusively on Google Chrome and use cloud storage rather than traditional software. The models Google donated are "managed" Chromebooks, which means they can be programmed for specific uses.
In the blog post announcing the grant, Jacquelline Fuller, the director of Google.org, wrote that these devices can be set up by any nonprofit to target the population they're working with. For example, they can run language-learning apps for job-seekers, educational games for young children, MOOCs for college students or information on asylum application for families.
Nonprofits that work with refugees in Germany can apply to receive Chromebooks through NetHope's website between now and February 8.
Last October, Google.org raised over $5 million for humanitarian relief for refugees in the Middle East and Europe. Now, it wants to to broaden efforts to include the long-term goal of education and schooling for resettled refugees.
Soleimani said the need to facilitate education through technology became apparent last fall, when dozens of Google employees volunteered on the ground along the refugee path from the Middle East to Europe. Google created wifi hubs along the route, she said, but it wanted to provide more lasting support for education in refugees' new homes.
"So many refugees actually had smartphones and already used the internet for their education, but everything changed for them when they migrated," she told HuffPost. "We think the work NetHope is doing will help them get back on their feet."
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