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Southwestern Students to Set Up Refurbished Computers in Honduras

In April, Southwestern students, faculty and staff members boxed up approximately 125 computers and monitors to send to children in Honduras. This month, several of those involved with the project will travel to Honduras to help install the computers.

In April, Southwestern students, faculty and staff members boxed up approximately 125 computers and monitors to send to children in Honduras. This month, several of those involved with the project will travel to Honduras to help install the computers.

Six students, two faculty members and two members of Southwestern’s Information Technology Services Department (ITS) leave for Honduras June 12, and will stay there until June 17. Their destination will be the city of La Esperanza in western Honduras.

Working with representatives from Save the Children in Honduras, the team plans to deliver the computers to eight different schools located in small villages around La Esperanza.

“This shipment of computers will directly impact the lives of about 1,000 children in the La Esperanza area,” said Sandra Romero de Thompson, a Southwestern graduate who helped arrange the partnership between Southwestern and Save the Children.

Thompson noted that while most of the computers will go to schools, some will be donated to educational centers where adults can use them as well. “We often talk about bridging the digital divide, and this is exactly a first step towards that goal for the people in this often-forgotten area of Honduras,” she said.

Four of the students going to Honduras − Kim Garcia, Lindsey Knapton, Natalie Sanders and Olivia Stanzer − are participants in Southwestern’s Paideia® program, which is designed to help students make connections between what they are learning in the classroom and the world around them. All participants in the Paideia® program are required to have a civic engagement project and an intercultural experience, as well as complete a research project. Two Paideia® groups spent the past semester working with ITS staff members to refurbish the computers for shipment. Their work included cleaning the hard drives and installing a Spanish version of Windows 98.

The faculty advisors to those two Paideia® groups − Daniel Castro and David Gaines − will be accompanying the students to Honduras, along with ITS staff members David Williamson and Neal Mann and student ITS staff workers Kate Peteet and Brian Tidwell.

Axcess Technologies (http://www.axcesstech.net/), an Austin-based computer and electronics recycling firm, provided boxes, packing materials and shipping assistance for the project. Southwestern also received a $3,000 grant from the Trull Foundation in Palacios, Texas, to fund the trip. Additional support for student travel and related expenses also came from the Priddy Charitable Trust of Wichita Falls, Texas, the donor of the gift that inaugurated and sustains the Paideia® program.

Southwestern has sponsored four computer shipments to Honduras and four volunteer trips to set up equipment since 2002. However, this is the first year that Paideia® students have been involved with the project.

“I am particularly proud of and excited for the Paideia® scholars who have put so much into this project already; I’m hoping it will be a transformative experience for them,” said Gaines, who serves as director of the Paideia® Program.

Paideia student Natalie Sanders said her personal goals for the trip include “seeing firsthand what life is like in Honduras, developing a closer relationship with my Paideia® cohort, and broadening my experiences as a human being.”

“As we started planning the project, we realized that it was a perfect way to observe and interact with a different culture, a form of service and humility, and most of all an action from one human being to another,” Sanders said.

While they are in La Esperanza, Williamson said the group plans to check on computers that have been previously installed.

“I hope we can talk to some of the teachers who are using the computers, see how they are working, and see how we might be able to adapt the program to serve them better. This project means a lot to us and does a lot of good for the children in Honduras.”