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  • Writer's pictureKyle Kvamme

Building Bridges: ORAM and Microsoft create meaningful connections through technical training in Tijuana

Updated: Apr 29

Pictured in the front: Stephen Eisermann (far left), Customer Success Account Manager at Microsoft; René A. Tec-López (holding check on the right), Mexico Program Officer at ORAM; Anton Sarkisov (kneeling), Intelligent Cloud & Edge Solutions Specialist at Microsoft; and Angel Martin (far right), Director of El Jardin de las Mariposas with residents of El Jardin de las Mariposas. Anton and Stephen provided El Jardin with a donation on behalf of Microsoft for their support of LGBTIQ refugees in Tijuana.

ORAM and Microsoft employees united in Tijuana, Mexico, in April to support LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers. Anton Sarkisov, Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud & Edge Solutions Specialist, joined forces with ORAM's Mexico Program Officer, René A. Tec-López, to visit LGBTIQ refugee shelters and facilitate training sessions on various software applications. This trip marks Anton's third visit in partnership with ORAM to meet LGBTIQ refugees in Tijuana.   

The trip was made possible thanks to Microsoft's generous support and began with visits to El Jardin de las Mariposas and La Casita de UT, a shelter that provides protection, programs, and advice to trans women, the LGBTIQ community, and immigrants. La Casita recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Microsoft's solidarity and goodwill were further demonstrated through direct donations to each shelter, acknowledging their incredible work for LGBTIQ refugees. "I'm grateful that Microsoft and I can play a small role in helping the community thrive," Anton shared.   

On their first day together in Tijuana, Anton and René attended a ceremony at La Casita to celebrate the occasion, during which they had conversations with the U.S. Consul General of Tijuana, Thomas E. Reott. "We [spoke] with Susana Barrales, the director of La Casita. She shared her story, the organization's history, the difficulties they have faced, and their great achievements, especially with the trans women who have passed through the house," René said.

"It was humbling and empowering to hear Suzy's journey as a trans person. Her sheer courage, demonstrable leadership, and big heart have opened the way for her, the residents of La Casita, and the trans community in Tijuana to gain visibility and attention within the local community and abroad," Anton reflected from the experience

Pictured: René (left), Susana Barrales, Director of La Casita, and Anton at the shelter. Anton presented Susana with a donation on behalf of Microsoft for their work supporting trans refugees in Tijuana.

Pictured: A ceremony at La Casita to celebrate their fifth anniversary.

After spending time at La Casita, René and Anton moved to El Jardin to meet with the residents and shelter staff. "At El Jardin, I'm always amazed by the sense of community the residents create for themselves, their resourcefulness in staying connected, and their goals of finding their ultimate safe place to thrive," Anton shared.   

"Angel Marin, who is the current director of El Jardin de las Mariposas, was impressive and very moving to see the work he is doing, continuing what his mother, Yolanda, started, and having El Jardin as a safe shelter for LGBT people who migrate," René said.   

The next day, Anton and René returned to El Jardin to facilitate three rounds of training on Microsoft Word and Copilot, Microsoft's AI tool. They were joined by Microsoft Customer Success Account Manager Stephen Eisermann, who assisted with the training in person. Two additional Microsoft employees, Angel Vizcarra, Product Marketing Manager, and Daniel Pacheco, technical specialist, proctored the training remotely in Spanish. The hybrid training included a virtual component for additional members of Microsoft's team to facilitate the training and was designed to equip the residents with practical skills to enhance their employability and daily lives. 

Microsoft provided 15 LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees with new Microsoft Word and Copilot skills. Anton reported that "the training went great! The participants engaged with the content and had fun creating sample flyers in Word. I think they particularly enjoyed learning about Copilot—how a piece of free tech accessible to all can help them create and be creative in their lives."   

Pictured: Anton (right) facilitating a technical training session for LGBTIQ refugees at El Jardin.

Not only was the training meaningful for the LGBTIQ refugee participants, but it was also impactful for the Microsoft team who joined virtually. Anton shared that his colleagues "were grateful and honored to be a part of helping the community to learn more about technology and tech skills that will help them in their employment and empowerment journey."   

After this third trip to Tijuana, Anton remains steadfast in his admiration for the LGBTIQ asylum seekers he's met. "I always receive a huge sense of strength and tenacity from observing the residents creating a sense of place and direction amidst some major political and societal headwinds in their life journey," he shared.   

For René, watching so many people come together to make this training meaningful for LGBTIQ refugees was emotional. "Seeing how these people are giving their all so that others in slightly more vulnerable situations can access services and a dignified life while they wait for permission to cross the United States. That has been very valuable and moving, and one of my favorite parts of this experience," they stated.   

Thank you to Anton, Stephen, and the Microsoft team for the incredible training and support of LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees in Tijuana!   

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