Old Computers From Southwestern Find New Life In Honduras
Computers that are four to eight years old might be practically worthless in the United States, but to families in rural Honduras, they are literally a godsend.
They can give adults the skills they need to support their families or help children broaden their horizons through the Internet.
Southwestern University has been sending its old computers to Honduras for the past five years through a program it calls “Hardware for Honduras.” In all, it has sent more than 120 computers to the Central American country.
The project grew out of a Global Leadership Initiative program that took Southwestern students on academic service learning trips to Honduras in the summers from 2000 to 2004. Several faculty members who accompanied students on these trips noticed that the towns they were in could really use some computers.
Sondra Romero de Thompson, a 1990 Southwestern graduate and native of Honduras, helped connect Southwestern with charities in Honduras that could distribute the computers. Students and staff members from Southwestern’s Information Technology Services (ITS) Department get the old computers in shape to send down, along with software and manuals. The first shipment of about 30 computers was sent down in November 2002.
The latest shipment departed campus May 17. A truck came to pick up boxes with 39 computers and drove them to Houston. From there, they were flown to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and then driven west to a city called La Esperanza that is near the border with El Salvador. From there, Save the Children will distribute the computers to outlying villages.
This year’s shipment was funded through proceeds from a computer sale ITS held in April.
Since the project started, ITS staff members and students have gone down to Honduras on three occasions to help set up and maintain the computers.
“The first time we went down there, half the town turned out,” said technology support specialist David Williamson. “These computers meant a whole new life for their community.”
Recent graduate Alex Casiano is among the students who have participated in the project. His involvement began in fall 2003 when he went to Honduras with two of Southwestern’s other Residential Computing Consultants to install computers.
“Having the opportunity to install computers for children who have never seen one before is a rewarding experience beyond words,” Casiano said. “Even as we would unbox the computers, children would begin to poke their heads around the corners of the doors. A few moments later, the room was filled with children, teachers, and sometimes parents. At this moment, I realized the impact of this program and that feeling has never faded during my subsequent trips.”
Casiano returned to Honduras in the summers of 2004 and 2005 to help install more computers. He even spent his last week at Southwestern - a time when most seniors are relaxing - helping box up the latest shipment of computers.
Casiano plans to take a leave of absence in December from his new job as a District Manager with Automatic Data Processing (ADP) in Dallas to install the computers that were recently shipped to Honduras.
“I think this program is a little ‘gem’ of Southwestern,” he said. “I am glad I will be able to continue my involvement with it.”