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Exploring Life & Business with Casey Myers of One Digital World

Today we’d like to introduce you to Casey Myers.

Hi Casey, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In January of 2016, I left my role as an administrator in higher education to backpack around the world with two of my best friends. I didn’t know if or when I’d come back so I rented out my house, sold my car and everything I couldn’t fit into a backpack and bought a one-way ticket to Belize. Now, I have visited over 50 countries and every continent except Antarctica. During that time, I began volunteering in schools, hostels, and even a lion refuge.

I also began learning that due to the war in Syria and other crises throughout parts of Africa and the Middle East, millions of people were escaping violence and persecution and arriving along Europe’s coastline seeking safety. It was then that I decided to volunteer in the largest refugee camp in the world. I now spent five years as a frontline worker and educator with refugees and asylum seekers in Europe, the United States, and Mexico. During this time, I saw completely ordinary people accomplish absolutely extraordinary feats to take care of their families and make the world a better place. I founded One Digital World because I believe that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to make something of their lives. That is why One Digital World sets up computer labs inside migrant shelters and refugee camps provide educational programs that teach employable skills and facilitates virtual access to resources and professionals previously out of reach. Over 200 women have graduated from our digital literacy program and we plan to open four new sites in 2021.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
One Digital World was founded in March 2, 2020. We had no idea that only two weeks later, the world would essentially shut down. Our headquarters are in San Diego but I was working with shelters in Tijuana to set up the first computer lab classrooms there. The US-Mexico Border shut down overnight and we had to completely rethink our business model and curriculums. Since the migrant shelters went into lockdown as well, it became even more urgent for there to be educational programming on-site and we couldn’t let our instructors go into the shelters to teach classes. Working with emergency response and nonprofits are often like that. We have to innovate new solutions, we have to pivot and adapt. There isn’t much time to dwell because we have to be the solution providers.

On a personal level, I had a big obstacle early on. While I was volunteering in Europe, the organization I was working with wanted me to stay with them a second year so they hired a lawyer to get me a work visa. We expected everything to be easily approved and only three days before my visa was set to expire, the visa regulations changed. I only had three days notice that I was going to lose my apartment they paid for, my job, my car they paid for, and have to leave the entire continent for 90 days. I had no plans in the US because I thought I’d be there for a second year so when I arrived stateside, I started looking for work and realized that I needed a graduate degree and there was a program I was interested in whose deadline was the next day. I spent the entire next day writing my essays, asking for letters of recommendation, and preparing my application. Low and behold, I was accepted into the Masters of Social Innovation program at the University of San Diego. You never know where one obstacle will lead you if you keep an open mind that a different direction might not be the wrong one.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Our mission is to reduce global inequality by empowering refugees with tech resources and education. We do this by setting up computer labs in refugee camps and migrant shelters, teaching and certifying employable skills, and facilitating remote legal services and public health information. The number of refugees today has surpassed even the levels of World War II. That is why we want to use technology to reduce the amount of time it takes refugees to integrate and become self-reliant in a new country and culture. I founded One Digital World because everyone needs digital skills and refugees are no exception. There are so many amazing organizations that provide food and shelter but there is a giant gap when it comes to education. In my work, I have found that the best way out of an emergency is provide people with the tools and the skills to help themselves. We connect refugees with computers and the internet, we teach how to use the internet for unlimited access to information, and we empower self-reliance. Readers can support the work of One Digital World by donating, volunteering, and following us on Facebook or LinkedIn.

What makes you happy?
Watching others succeed and learn new things makes me happy! I love meeting new people, visiting new places, and sharing stories and experiences with those around me. There is nothing better than knowing that you have helped make someone’s day just a little bit brighter.

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