UMBCTC Helps WCE Ship Computers to 22 Schools
World Computer Exchange worked for more than a year with US Peace Corps Volunteers and schools in Madagascar to arrange our shipment of a container of 365 computers. Meanwhile, our Baltimore/Washington DC Chapter prepared the computers to ship to 22 schools and universities in Madagascar with the help of students and staff of the University of Maryland/Baltimore County Training Centers (UMBCTC).
“This was a very rewarding project,” said Bill Schneider, one of the UMBCTC volunteers. “Our folks have been working for months to refurbish these computers and send them on their way.” (picture on left)
This project was in the works for more than a year. The 365 computers were donated to WCE by a wide range of individuals, companies, and nonprofits. The project has involved fundraising efforts in both Madagascar and the United States. The WCE costs for sourcing and shipping the computers were covered by donations from Peace Corps, the friends and family of the Peace Corps Volunteers combined with funds from the universities and some of the schools, and donations from WCE volunteers from the local WCE Washington-Baltimore Chapter.
Our volunteers refurbished and loaded each computer with educational content in French. Peace Corps Volunteers working in those schools will help install the equipment and guide the teachers. For most of these schools, just as in all 17 countries where WCE has shipped computers to schools assisted by Peace Corps Volunteers, this will be their first experience with computers. In other words, their educational universe is about to expand tremendously.
The new affiliation with UMBC allows WCE to ramp up its activities and serve even more people. “We´re grateful that UMBC appreciates the work that we do”, said Tom Graham, who is the Coordinator of the WCE Washington/Baltimore Chapter.
130 of the computers went to northern Madagascar to the Université d’Antsiranana. The other 235 computers went to 22 schools in villages in the area where the Peace Corps volunteers are stationed. These computers are expected to connect nearly 70,000 youth.
Note in the picture above prior to the arrival of the container of computers that all of the students are looking at Sheona’s laptop.
Peace Corps headquarters in Washington posts information about WCE for their interested volunteers. The Peace Corps Volunteer who took the lead in this project learned about WCE. Over many months she answered WCE’s implementation questions, recruited her fellow Volunteers and the schools, and guided the fundraising via the Peace Corps website. At the very end of their fundraising, Peace Corps contributed funds directly from Let Girls Learn funds. This was the first time that they did this with a WCE project.
Sheona Shauna, one of the two lead Volunteers explains the need as follows: “In our rapidly modernizing world, students without access to technology are at an extreme disadvantage. Many Malagasy students have never had access to computers; further, they have not learned to use the essential IT Tools that would facilitate their connection to an infinite database of knowledge. Therefore, even the most eager and motivated students are necessarily exposed to fewer opportunities and excluded from participating in the global community. While their international peers are stimulated by an unlimited network of information and knowledge, Malagasy young people are hindered. If you extrapolate over years, the limited access to educational resources obstructs the development of the entire country.”
Sheona further outlines the project: “Through a combination of structured courses and supervised free access, Volunteers will provide communities with a way to take education beyond the classroom. All of the WCE computers will arrive with a pre-installed educational Content pack complete with software. WCE volunteers gather a wide range of educational content from many organizations and receive permission for our use loading for off line use when the local school cannot gain access to the internet.
Additionally, many volunteers are working with their communities to develop IT courses, and at least two thirds of the communities hope to be able to offer internet access on their computers within the next two years. The goal is to provide Malagasy students with the same opportunities as their international peers—to be able to access and actively participate in their global community.”
Each year for three years, the schools have agreed to evaluate the status, use, and impact of the computers.
Sheona is originally from near Columbia, Maryland. Tom Graham, the WCE DC Coordinator, received a message from her mother. Her mother had hoped to help the volunteers with the computer packing, but she had transportation problems. She wrote: “Thanks so much for doing this. It means a lot to the PCVs and more importantly to the kids in Madagascar. I was there last year, and they are wonderful, hardworking and motivated kids who deserve a chance to succeed.”
WCE is a nonprofit that has shipped 36,000 refurbished computers to 3,300 schools in 47 developing countries connecting 4.6 million youth. For WCE Washington-Baltimore, this was our 30th shipment. We have refurbished and shipped 6,500 computers to 440 schools and other youth sites that have connected over 700,000 students over the years.