Wednesday, July 27, 2005

COMPUTERS FOR UGANDA: Inspirational and Refreshing

The thing I really like about writing this Blog is that I get to learn about a lot of really Great People. The first thing I do when I turn on my computer in the morning is to read the latest news. And by the time I have done that, my spirits are usually pretty low. But one of the last things I do before I shut my computer down in the evening is to write about some Wonderful group of people that is working to make a difference in the world.

When I wrote about Computers For Africa on the 20th of July, I was (and still am) impressed by the very straightforward manner in which they go about contributing of themselves for the benefit of others. Since writing about Computers For Africa, I have been directed towards another group: "Computers for Uganda" whose work is just as inspiring.

Computers for Uganda describes themselves in this way:
Computers for Uganda is a non-profit organization which is a part of Emrald City Rotary's Computers for the World organization."

So far, so good, but then comes the really surprising part!

"We're made up of a group of high school students from Mount Si High School, Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, and other local schools in the Puget Sound area of Washington State."

BAM! My spirits were lifted higher than they were before I read the morning news. Here is a Great group of High School Kids out there Making A Difference.

These High Schoolers meet for nine months to learn about Uganda, collect computers, and refurbish them. But they also learn and practice troubleshooting potential installation problems and cable making, and to practice teaching techniques on using and maintaining the hardware.

Additionally, they create simple guides for the use of the computers.

That's quite a lot of activity for folks that are also carrying a full academic load, but it does not stop them from also engaging in fundraising activities, conduct clothing drives, and learning to work together as a team. When they travel to Uganda, they do so as a Team.

How can you not respect a group of young folk like this?

Last week, Computers for Uganda left Washington State for its Third trip to Uganda taking 140 computers with them. Their first trip was in 2003 and since then, they had delivered 130 computers to nine secondary schools in the Masaka district in southern Uganda. The nine schools that previously received the computers for Computers for Uganda were both private and government run.

The 140 computers being delivered to Uganda this year will be used to set up computer labs in 9 schools in Uganda's Masaka District as well.

The group proudly reports that:

"Of the four original schools receiving computers in summer 2003, three schools have extended the use of the computer labs to the local community. This cross-purpose use of the facilities occurs in the evenings, on weekends, and during school holidays. One of the schools has established a partnership with World Vision. In exchange for use of the facilities, World Vision helps to underwrite the costs of a technology teacher salary and related costs, e.g., electricity. At another school eight students studying to sit the "O Level" Exam in Computer Science."

These guys are leveraging resources and networking better than many organizations that claim to have "Old Hands" in the non-profit sectors on board.

Simply stated, Computers for Uganda's vision is "to deploy technology in secondary schools in rural Uganda in order to empower young people with hands-on skills and opportunities to grow in technical careers."

They say that they chose Uganda as a recipient country because it is one of the twenty most poverty stricken countries in the world and has suffered greatly from upheavals, poverty, poor health delivery systems and illiteracy. They also state that they chose Uganda because the current government is committed to education and acknowledges the need for the acquisition of IT skills, but lacks sufficient resources to fully implement such a program.

The Project conducted by Computers for Uganda is a partnership with Rotarians, Computers for the World, local businesses, individuals, and students from Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Mount Si High School and other Washington State public high schools, and the government of Uganda. It is designed to bring technology to schools in the Masaka district in southern Uganda.

The nine recipient schools range in size in student population from 700 to 2200 and each strives to enhance the education of women by maintaining the female student population of the school at at least a 50% of the total.

One of the goals of the Computer for Uganda teams is to build a relationship with the schools in Uganda "that one day will grow into an electronic connected community." And while they are in Uganda they visit the former recipient schools, install computers and train the Ugandan students on the use of applications. And of course, the team members get to experience the local culture first hand during the three weeks that they are there.

Before they leave for Uganda the team members and their families get together to establish a "home communication system" so the folks back home can stay informed of the team's activities.

The Ogranization's web site has a "Journal" page where the team members post writings about their daily experiences while in Uganda. The Journal is posted here:

Visiting Computers for Uganda's web site was more refreshing for me than reading "Chicken Soup For The Soul" (A popular inspirational book in the U.S.). I highly recommend going there to get your spirits lifted and your faith in humanity reinforced. They can be found at:


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