The two major hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico in September 2017 decimated many of the basics of life: power, water, crops, health, telecommunications, food, cash, fuel, and roads. Schools on the island are hard-hit, with little hope of reopening for weeks. We have been deeply impressed by the people of Puerto Rico working so hard to help each other in this time of such great need. World Computer Exchange has programs in many of these schools and was about to bring computers and training programs to more of them. We will resume shipping refurbished computers into San Juan as soon as our Board members who live on the island say the time is right. In the meantime, companies on the U.S. mainland have been donating additional equipment to us to help restore the schools of Puerto Rico. We thank them for their generosity.
Below is background about our pilot project before the hurricanes. On the left is a picture of the computer delivery in January 2017 at the Escuela Superior Lila Maria Mercedes Mayoral in Ponce. Fundación Kinesis has offered to provide their college counselors to assist the 558 students in this high school. A film team recruited for WCE-PR by the University of Puerto Rico will shoot some video of the students with these computers.
This school is one of 6 pilot schools receiving the following: 18 refurbished computers loaded with educational content in Spanish, help from tech volunteers, improvements in their internet, and the purchase of software. The computers were sponsored by a generous grant from the 20/22 Act Foundation. In exchange each school has a teacher and class work to help gather more educational content for use by schools in Puerto Rico and a teachers and class design a project to inspire girls to pursue careers in technology.
We are planning that the pilot schools will be included in the computational thinking programs of the University of Puerto Rico and that participating teachers will become members of iEARN-Puerto Rico so their students can participate in international student learning projects.
For pilot schools for which we can recruit corporate financial Sponsors, WCE-PR will work with them to develop a student-led refurbishing and training Chapter in the school. Read more about our WCE Puerto Rico Pilot Schools Project….
The Escuela Superior Josefina Leon Zayas in Jayuya is interested in housing one of our student-led Chapter in their school now that we have secured approval from the Secretary of Education.
As utilities are restored in Puerto Rico, we will resume recruiting computers and volunteers from the member companies of the 20/22 Act Society, a group founded by WCE Board member Robb Rill who is the Managing Director of The Strategy Group-Puerto Rico, a private-equity firm.
We seek business tech volunteers to work with the students on networking computers, learning software, and training in computer repair and use. We also seek donations of computers for our volunteers in Puerto Rico to refurbish. Read more about this here….
My firm has worked with WCE for over eight years, and WCE is uniquely positioned to address the chronic problem of a lack of working computers and technical understanding to maintain them in schools for children who need them most to learn. Measured by metrics of accessibility, Puerto Rico is likely the worst compared to any U.S. State. With support from firms like mine and Ciudadela, we can bridge the disconnect between accessibility and knowledge.” – Robb Rill, The Strategic Group – Puerto Rico
The other schools in our pilot are Escuela Superio Vocacional Republica de Costa Rica in Caugas, Escuela Elemental Luis Llorens Torres in San Juan, Escuela Superior Ramon Vila Mayo in Rio Piedras, and a high school in the Santurce section of San Juan. You can see more details about our 6 pilot schools here….
Timothy Anderson, WCE’s CEO spoke to a Pecha Kucha on Friday, May 19, 2017 in the offices of Seriously Creative.
WCE-PR plans to roll out to more schools once utilities are returned. We are selecting future schools so that we will have schools in each of the seven education regions of the Department of Education of Puerto Rico. We are now looking for schools and corporate Sponsors in the Arecibo, Bayamón, Mayagüez, and Humacao regions. You can read more about our school recruitment by region here….
In the future we plan to involve some of the schools in projects to analyze the disposal of electronic waste in Puerto Rico and then to look at providing services to other countries in the Caribbean.
You can see here our org chart showing the programs we envision for WCE-Puerto Rico.
We asking interested local schools to complete a needs survey. Please contact us at PuertoRico@WorldComputerExchange.org if you would like the survey sent to you or a school in Puerto Rico by email.
The WCE-Puerto Rico team is excited that this initiative is getting started. The biggest hurdle was developing a concept based on a documented need. Our field research revealed that upwards of 40% of the computers and networks in Puerto Rico schools do not work. Moreover, budgets and capacity are limited to repair these computers. In Puerto Rico, WCE aims to organize volunteers who can train teachers and students to install, troubleshoot, and repair technology, not only providing technology career readiness and know-how in the community, but also creating a socially and environmentally responsible movement to recycle e-waste and repair and refurbish computers that can be saved.
“The concept of the school tech club pilot is to locally source, refurbish, and recycle computers to serve local demand for low cost computers while providing more tech skills to the participating students. The idea is to create a program to serve a local need sustainably and one that adapts as the need evolves there may be new opportunities that come down the road, and through the e-Waste Initiative, everyone moves up the learning curve in an environmentally and operationally sustainable way. As a pilot, Puerto Rico is just the beginning and we already see other countries where this specific model may be applicable.” – Stephen Sena, WCE e-Waste Director
In Puerto Rico this pilot will 1) repair computers in schools, 2) use them as a resource for training, and 3) take dead computers to a facility where students learn how to disassemble computers and salvage working parts. WCE is already seeing other countries where our student tech clubs can be used as a model to recycle old technologies in schools, and is working with local actors to develop similar solutions.
This pilot also aims to strengthen all of WCE’s services like Inspire Girls, Training, and Content.
The secondary focus of this pilot is raising awareness about the hazards of e-waste. As new chapters and clubs come online, WCE will advance the next public outreach steps that we began with the website www.reciclemos.net that we co-developed for Latin America. We plan to undertake similar work with our Partner organizations in countries where we launch Chapters. Our key Strategic Ally in this part of the effort is global e-waste NGO WorldLoop. As part of our Puerto Rico effort, we plan to work with the technical assistance of WorldLoop and develop a certified recycling entity in Puerto Rico.
We have begun to pilot our Inspire Girls pilot in Puerto Rico with graduate students at the University of Puerto Rico developing tools in Spanish for teachers to use to inspire girls to pursue careers in technology.
Corporate Financial Donors for WCE-Puerto Rico
- 20/22 Act Society and the 20/22 Act Foundation
- Adsuar Muiz Goyco Seda & Perez-Ochoa
- Dixon Construction Company
- FDF Real Estate Investment Group
- Paskewitz Asset Management
- Sanders Phillips Grossman, LLC
- The Strategic Group PR
- Trillion Realty Group, Inc.
- Yale Capital Corporation
Our WCE-Puerto Rico Steering Committee
- Robb Rill, Managing Director, The Strategic Group – Puerto Rico and Founder, 20/22 Act Society
- Anne Burns, Director of Operations, RocketGate
- Donna Cohen, Newcomers Club of Puerto Rico
- Enid Concepcion, 20/22 Act Society
- Mark Gold, Ticket Clinic
- Jeremy Griffiths, Executive, Putnam Bridge Funding
- Ken Kay, Founder, San Juan Tech Meetup
- Josh Olmsted, Chatnik
- Dr. Patti Ordonez, Assistant Professor, UPR, Include Girls Faculty Advisor, Co-Coordinator WCE-Puerto Rico
- Dr. Cynthia Romero-Arroyo, Lab Manager, Baxter
- Jose Enrique Fernandez, Fundación Kinesis, Omega
- Timothy Anderson, CEO, World Computer Exchange