Helping People Help Themselves
Nearly 100 computers that might have ended up in a landfill are about to find new life in Honduras.
The computers were shipped to Honduras June 19 after being refurbished this spring by students in Southwestern’s Paideia program.
Southwestern students, faculty and staff members have been running a program to provide computers for children in Honduras since 2002. The project is done in conjunction with Save the Children Honduras.
“Computers that are seven or eight years old are lasting another three to four years down there,” said David Williamson, an ITS staff member who has been involved with the program since its inception. “The students use them during the day and their family members and parents use them on the weekends. It is amazing how many people one computer can touch.”
Each year, the project continues to grow. This year, for example, Southwestern sent 17 laptop computers to Honduras in addition to 79 desktop computers. The laptops will be given to staff members at Save the Children in La Esperanza to use as they make their rounds covering two different states in Honduras.
For the first time this year, the computer shipment also included some replacement parts that Williamson was able to get donated from IBM. The extra hard drives and CD-ROM drives will be used to repair computers that Southwestern previously sent to Honduras. “The roads down there are pretty rough, so some of the optical drives don’t make it,” Williamson said.
A group of 12 Southwestern students, faculty and staff members was supposed to go to Honduras July 27-Aug. 2 to help install the computers that were shipped down, but they had to postpone their trip due to the recent coup in the country. Paideia Director David Ganes said he hopes the group will be able to go over spring break instead.
The computers will eventually be installed in at least four schools in villages around La Esperanza, which is located in the western part of Honduras.
Students from three different Paideia groups at Southwestern were involved with the Honduras project this year. Brian Tidwell, a junior anthropology major, was among those who helped refurbish the computers. “It feels really great to know you are helping someone help themselves,” Tidwell said. Tidwell hopes to work with non-profits after he graduates so he said the Honduras program “has been a nice trial run” for him.
Steven Marble, an associate professor of education, wants to see how his Paideia group can help with the project in coming years. “We don’t just want to replicate what has been done in the past,” Marble said. “Now that we are supplying this technology, we want to think about what can be done with it in small, rural communities.”
For example, he said, communities might be able to use the computers to store health care records. “I want to be able to help my students think about this problem,” he said.
Anyone interested in donating an old computer to be refurbished by students this year should contact Williamson at 512-863-1643 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Computers must be no older than seven years old and have at least a 1 GHZ processor.