Go Digital training: A lifeline for young Palestinian web developer
After struggling for years, Tariq El Helou is now an experienced full-stack website and web applications developer who is optimistic about his future.
Tariq El Helou has suffered many losses in his young life. He lost sight his right eye as a child due to a genetic abnormality. After graduating from university, he lost all his electronic engineering equipment when Israel bombed Gaza, effectively destroying his main source of income as well as his family home.
And then Tariq joined the International Trade Centre’s Go Digital project, and his losses turned into gains.
‘When I was a kid, I had a big dream to change my family life because I lived near the Israeli border and every week we were exposed to bombing from Israel,’ he says. ‘This built fear about the future.’
Even though he pressed on, earning a bachelor’s degree in information and communications technology in 2020 and then finding work in electronic maintenance, losing his job and the situation in Gaza pushed him into a depression.
‘I lost my passion after graduating with my bachelor’s degree,’ says Tariq, who has five younger sisters. ‘I went through a situation I never imagined – I thought it was the end.’
Instead of the end, he got a new beginning. The six-month Go Digital project enabled Tariq, 27, to build a business as a freelancer specializing in website creation and web applications development. He’s learned a range of valuable skills, such as coding and how to write successful proposals, negotiate and win clients – ‘skills I was losing before joining this programme’, he says.
Go Digital’s freelance training helps unlock opportunities for refugees and youth in Gaza by strengthening their technical capability and employability in the digital sector. It provides technical and vocational training by using digital channels as an innovative way for trainees to connect with clients, find jobs and access markets.
‘I was impressed by the incubator’s management at this training. At the end of the training, the hackathon programme changed my thinking greatly, and it was a major part in helping me incubate my idea and build my own company,’ Tariq says, referring to the three-week collaborative event that had all 150 Go Digital trainees working together to tackle different digital challenges.
‘Before joining Go Digital, my name was Tariq,’ he says. ‘After I finished this programme, it became React Guru.’