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Second Life for Old Computers

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    Students at the La Paz Community School in Costa Rica stand with the boxes of refurbished computers that arrived from Southwestern.
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    David Williamson from Information Technology Services works with members of the Computer Science Club to refurbish the computers that were sent to Costa Rica. (Photo by Kathryn Reagan)
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    Williamson talks with members of the Computer Science Club about his experience taking refurbished computers from Southwestern to Honduras.
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    Staff members and student workers from Information Technology Services packed the refurbished computers for shipment to Costa Rica.

Students help refurbish old computers for a school in Costa Rica

Some old computers from Southwestern will soon be starting a new life in Costa Rica.

This spring, Southwestern sent 44 refurbished computers to the La Paz Community School in Flamingo, Costa Rica. The computers will be set up late this summer − in time for the start of the new academic year in the fall. 

Sandra Romero de Thompson, a 1990 Southwestern graduate who now lives in Costa Rica, helped coordinate the donation.

“The La Paz Community School is an amazing nonprofit school in its seventh year of existence,” Romero said. “One of the priorities the school has had is to provide scholarships for local children. Most of these scholarship students probably have no access to computers outside the school environment, so the school needs to make sure computers are available to all during the school day.”

Romero cited the example of an English teacher at the school who realized one of her scholarship students had been turning in homework with strange characters at the beginning of each line. The student told her she didn’t have a computer and was typing her homework on her mother’s cell phone. That was causing the strange characters.

Romero said that out of 215 students at the school, 31 have received scholarships to attend. Her three children attend the school, and she has been active in volunteering there. Special Missions Foundation, an NGO that Romero and her husband, Jerry, established more than 15 years ago, raised the funds to ship the computers from Texas to Florida. Another La Paz parent, Kim Trefcer with ZIX Corporation, shipped the refurbished computers from Florida to Costa Rica.

“These computers will benefit all students, not only the ones on scholarship, because the school will be able to have computers in each classroom and a more complete computer lab,” Romero said.

Romero has previously facilitated donations of old computers from Southwestern to a variety of organizations in her native country of Honduras.

David Williamson, a staff member in Information Technology Services who was also involved with the computer shipments to Honduras, showed students in Southwestern’s Computer Science Club how to refurbish the latest batch of computers. Williamson also spoke to club members about his experiences taking computers to Honduras.

“We really enjoyed learning more about how Southwestern students and faculty have improved the quality of education in these small communities through the use of these computers,” said club member Rebecca Wilson.

Kathryn Reagan was another club member who heard Williamson speak and participated in the refurbishing of the computers.

“The whole process was inspiring and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it,” Reagan said. “I hope this becomes something the club does annually.” 

Romero agreed, saying the project is a great example of how so many people, working together, can have an impact on others who they may, or may never meet.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of the international nonprofit work we do is to see how so much can be accomplished as a team,” she said.

Romero said she hopes that sometime in the future, Southwestern students, faculty, staff and alumni can visit La Paz in person.