Computers for Education

Leaders not pictured: Ms. Amy Bellus, Fr. John Forliti, and Mr. Rob Peick

Computers have revolutionized the way we interact and go about our daily lives. Case in point: you are reading this article from a computer or smart phone connected to the internet. Having a computer has becoming the norm and an expected expense — or graduation present — for American students entering college in the fall.

Not every student is so fortunate. Many students in Kenya have never seen a computer, much less expect to use one to further their education. Education itself is considered a luxury. This creates a digital divide between those who are virtually connected to the world and have the tools to enhance their education, and those who aren’t. Computer skills increase the chance of employment and can potentially become the gateway to a better life for an African student.

A group of eight students and three staff members of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, made it their mission to close the technology gap for students in rural Rabondo, Kenya. On June 8, the “Kenya Krew ’09” journeyed to the village to teach the students of St. Timon’s Secondary School how to use the ten Dell computers they had received through a generous grant from the Augustine Foundation. “There were twenty or thirty students who would gather around the computers at a time and we would show them things like how to open a Word document, what a monitor is, and how to save their work. Basic stuff,” explained Megan Kramer, a student from the group.

More than 200 students are enrolled at St. Timon’s Secondary School. Five of its eight teachers are paid by the government, and the others volunteer and receive a modest stipend from the money raised by the Rabondo Community Project USA, a nonprofit organization started by Timon Bondo, who grew up in Rabondo and came to Minnesota to further his education.

During a return visit to Rabondo in 1996, Timon was struck by the destitution of his village. Restoring hope to his home was not an easy task for the blind and elderly man, but he could not ignore the orphans and widows of AIDS left to fend for themselves, or the lack of sanitation facilities, safe water, electricity, businesses and access to basic health care. The first story in NEED magazine’s premiere issue tells how Timon created Rabondo Community Project USA to provide resources to educate the children of Rabondo.

Photos Courtesy | Rabondo Community Project USA

Thirteen years later, the children of Rabondo are receiving not only a roof over their classrooms, but also the technology to truly excel in their academic endeavors.

This is not to say that donating computers to Kenyan students is the simple solution to improve their lives and further their education. Without the technical training, internet connectivity, and a way of maintaining the machines, the computers are useless. One big issue is the variance of software compatibility, which leads to chaos in the classroom as teachers struggle to make the machines work. It is not as easy as visiting the Genius Bar at the Apple store, or calling the Geek Squad to troubleshoot computer problems. Many computers donated out of goodwill go to waste or end up polluting the land without the proper expertise to ensure the computers are useful.

Aware of this problem, the Kenya Krew ‘09 travelled from St. Paul to Rabondo to share their knowledge of how to operate the computers. When the school year resumes, they plan to tell their fellow classmates and teachers about their experience in hope of fundraising for the village to maintain the computers.

Students of CDH class of 2010: Brian Boyle, Maura Daugherty, Sam Dooher, Louise Gappa, Mary Henry, Megan Kramer, Cecelia Leatherman, and Revalon Wesson

What started as Timon’s passion to encourage the children and empower the community of Rabondo, has grown to a number of inspired individuals including the Kenya Krew ’09 as well as the Rotary Clubs of Alaska and White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The Rotary Clubs’ donations have made it possible for a well to be dug that will furnish St. Timon’s as well as the surrounding area with safe water. Work is expected to be completely by October of this year.

As the parents, students, and leaders gathered in a St. Paul house to share stories and experiences from the trip, one parent asked the group, “Who would go back?” All eleven members of the group raised their hands without hesitation.

Rabondo Community Project USA

Timon Bondo is deeply grateful for the help he has received along the way to improve the lives of the Rabondo community. He is currently seeking an intern to assist his continued effort to provide Rabondo with necessary resources by helping him with tasks that are difficult due to his failing eyesight. For more information, contact the staff of NEED magazine.

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