Posted on December 26, 2016

Qatar Charity today hailed the success of its partnership with Microsoft in teaching the fundamentals of modern computing to Qatari mothers, orphaned children and users with special needs.

Qatar Charity launched the training seminars to coincide with International Day for Persons with Disabilities, on 3 December. The sessions were conducted by Microsoft Qatar, as part of its Computer Science Week initiative. Children with special needs, as well as Qatari mothers and orphans, were coached by Premier Field Engineers from Microsoft’s Services team, on important aspects of information technology.

On 1 December, Microsoft’s trainers began with entry-level ICT training for children with mild disabilities. The purpose of the course was to introduce the concept of computing to those who may otherwise not have had the opportunity to learn from specialists. Microsoft trainers covered basics of a computer and other devices such as smartphones and tablets. Students received an overview of the main hardware components of a computer such as a mouse, keyboard as well as the Windows desktop before exploring Microsoft applications such as PowerPoint, Word and enjoyed using Microsoft Paint to create various sceneries including the Qatari Flag. Students received completion certificates with a printout of their paintings, at the end of the training seminar.

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Also covered was the Internet – what it is, how it works, and how to get the most out of it – and web services such as Bing search, Outlook email and calendar, Skype communication, and games such as Minecraft. “At Qatar Charity, we work to ensure the basic human dignity of all people, regardless of their circumstances,” said Hamed Shihadeh, Qatar Charity’s Community Partnership Manager. “Access to technology is a critical step, as it constitutes an integral part of the modern human experience. Microsoft has done great work around the world in bringing the most up-to-date technologies to the underprivileged and those with special needs. They are a key partner in our ongoing work, here in Qatar.”

Last year Qatar Charity worked with Microsoft and ExxonMobil Qatar to teach the fundamentals of computer-game coding to orphans, using Microsoft’s visual-programming language, Kodu. This year, on 8 December, young orphaned students in Qatar received training in basic-level computer-coding, using the popular game Minecraft as a learning template. The Minecraft Hour of Code session, designed for ages six and older, by Microsoft and Code.org, taught participants to create their own Minecraft experience.

The session allowed young people to grasp fundamental concepts such as object-oriented programming, event handlers and loops, vital building blocks in commercial software engineering. “Microsoft believes every young person should have the opportunity to learn computer science.” Said Lana Khalaf, Acting General Manager, Microsoft Qatar. “Sessions like the Minecraft ‘Hour of Code’ that hosted 22 orphans between the ages of 8 and 14, can demystify software construction and push boundaries by enabling them to begin learning the problem-solving and critical thinking skills required in today’s tech-fuelled world.

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On 22 December, Microsoft conducted awareness training for Qatari mothers, to help them keep their children safe on the Internet. Internet Security and Child Safety Training focused on privacy and safe web-browsing, and included a rundown of the risks and how to address them. Microsoft also made a number of recommendations to attendees on general computer protection. “The Internet is a powerful conduit, both for communication and knowledge-gathering,” said Shihadeh, Qatar Charity. “But we all have a responsibility to recognise the inherent dangers of such an open platform. By partnering with civic-minded technology companies, we pre-empt the dangers with straightforward awareness seminars such as this one.”

“Microsoft’s mission has always been to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more,” said Lana Khalaf, Acting General Manager of Microsoft Qatar. “Great technology is a key enabler in that story, but some people continue to miss out on these advancements. We see it as our duty to rectify that, as best we can. Citizen programmes like Philanthropies extend our delivery ecosystem, and place advancements in the hands of everyone, regardless of circumstance. It remains our great honour to work alongside organisations like Qatar Charity that have similar aspirations.”

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