Volume 18 • Issue 1
Spreading Computer Literacy
Southwestern’s technology gift earns coverage in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Reprinted with permission of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, http://philanthropy.com.
Southwestern @ Georgetown
Here, four girls from the village of Santa Catarina explore their elementary school’s new computers.

In poor rural villages in the Intibucá region of Honduras, where electricity and running water are intermittent luxuries, children are learning how to surf the Web and write e-mail messages, thanks to a partnership involving two charities and a university.

In 2002, students and information technology staff members from Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Texas, helped gather 30 computers that were four to eight years old for shipment to Honduras. Several of those volunteers then spent a week there setting them up in schools and community centers.

Since then, 165 computers have been distributed to rural villages.

The Southwestern effort was born soon after Save the Children took its search for computers to Special Missions, a nonprofit group that links needy people in Honduras to humanitarian resources.

Sandra Romero de Thompson, a 1990 graduate of Southwestern who co-founded Special Missions with her husband, Jerry, knew the university had a connection to the country because she had helped lead a student group on one of Southwestern’s community-service trips to Honduras.

Southwestern organized a sale of used computers in April to raise $3,200 for the latest shipment of 39 machines. Students pay their own way to Honduras—about $1,600 each—to help install the computers, although staff members’ travel is covered by the university.

Hardware for Honduras, as the effort is known, hopes to bring satellite service to Intibucá for a faster Internet connection, and Ms. Thompson says an e-mail pen-pal program between the children and Southwestern students is a possibility.

“Everyone who has volunteered knows that this is really something that is very doable and very positive,” says Ms. Thompson, who is from Honduras. “The children learning to use the computers will have skills that most people in Honduras will never get to have.”