Paideia cohorts join forces to bring computers to Honduran schools

The program involves sending refurbished computers to Hondurian schools.

The program involves sending refurbished computers to Hondurian schools.

Bringing free technology to less economically fortunate countries is becoming an increasingly popular philanthropic endeavor, and Southwestern is never one to fall behind in trends. Supported by three different Paideia cohorts, Computers for Honduran Children is quickly gaining success and campus wide attention. Computers are donated by Southwestern students, and the computers are then distributed to needy children through Save the Children in La Esperanza, Honduras.

“We wanted to start a project in which we could help a community help themselves,” said senior Olivia Stanzer. “It was very important to us that we didn’t just hand them supplies, but that we brought them something that would allow them to build up their own education system and give them skills that would then in turn allow them to increase their income which would allow them to send more kids to school and so on.”

Since 2002, Southwestern students, faculty and staff members have been working to provide computers for children in Honduras, but it has only recently been adopted by Paideia cohorts.

“Dr. Castro and David Williamson originally tried this program with donating the computers to places around the Georgetown community, but the computers were turned away for being too old,” said Stanzer. “Yet, most of the computers last up to five years in Honduras where the need for high-speed computers is not a concern.”

It is this sentiment that makes donating to Honduras such a worthwhile experience for so many.

“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 heavily involved with the project in the last eight years. “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.”

Computers have been refurbished by students, and Williamson has worked hard to get IBM to donate extra gadgets for increased efficiency, like hard drives and CD-ROMS for the next shipment of computers to go to Honduras. Extra parts left over from this shipment will be sent over to replace originals sent in old shipments from prior years.

“Our Paideia cohort worked with David Williamson, Neal Mann and others from ITS to recycle, repair and reimage around 108 computers in the Spring of 2008,” said senior Natalie Sanders. “Around 10 of us traveled down to Honduras in June 2008 to install the computers in elementary schools around the area. Unfortunately, the political unrest in the country over the summer prevented us from installing the computers. This summer, during the last week of July, more people involved in the project will be flying down to install computers, distribute clothing and hopefully arrange workshops to talk about repairing computers and using them in schools.”

There is very little concern among supporters that the program will fade with the current graduating seniors who have adopted the program as their own.

“We have a current junior and sophomore cohort ready to take it over, in addition to Dr. Gaines’ and Dr. Castro’s new freshman cohorts,” said Stanzer. “This way it will always have a cycle of members that are coming in/leaving, and it can continue on as a part of the Southwestern community.”

The program’s supporters hope to see it continued for the long run.

“In this way we are building a stair-step group of people, who can rotate out each year, but continue to fill leadership roles and be trained by the more experienced students,” said Sanders.

Anyone interested in donating an old computer to be refurbished by students this year should contact Williamson at 512-863-1643 or Dr. David Gaines. Students interested in learning more about the project before donating should contact Oliva Stanzer at stanzero@southwestern.edu or Natalie Sanders at sandersn@southwestern.edu. Computers must be no older than seven years old and have at least a 1 GHZ processor.

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