How it began:
One day, my friends and I were brainstorming community service project ideas.I maneuvered the conversation into a discussion of ways in which we could improve the miserable situation in Mexico. Rather than focus on all of Mexico, we decided to focus on just one area, Oaxaca, a mountainous region home to disenfranchised indigenous people.
Now that we knew who to help, the next step was “How?” I would like to point out the fact that we did not want to have a run-of-the-mill project, we did not want to provide ephemeral aid to the Oaxacans. Rather, we wanted to truly make a difference in the lives of others, to improve lives, to improve communities. We concluded that the way to do so would be to improve the future, of the people, of the community. The best way to improve the future is by educating the future, so that the future can, in turn, improve itself. In other words, if we educated children in the communities we wanted to help, the children could then help improve the communities in the future. This is the conceptual basis of our project and what led us to decide that the best way to help would be to obtain donated computers for these underprivileged communities.
This was the start of Digital Conviction, the name of the organization that arose from that conversation, the name we’ve given to our effort. A short time after that, the months of planning for our community service project began, with a ton of phone calls and e-mails.
We spent months planning and organizing the effort that culminated in providing donated computers for underprivileged communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. The first part of the process involved establishing which communities would receive our aid, since it would have been nearly impossible to make a profound difference if we overextended the project. To start things off, I contacted one of my father’s friends in Mexico, a man who worked for the Mexican Department of Education. This man, in turn, connected us to a superintendent in Oaxaca, whose interest in our project and desire to do everything in his power to make it possible immediately caught our attention. This superintendent later became our guide, leading us along dirt roads to the various communities that enthusiastically welcomed us.
After this was done, the most important facet of the project turned out to be the easiest. I contacted Univisión headquarters in Mexico, and the idea caught fire. Those within the company saw our project as such a meaningful humanitarian effort that they helped make it possible, by donating used PCs. They even helped us with the software installation and with packaging the equipment: PCs, monitors, keyboards, printers, mice, etc. Obtaining the software licensing, however, was solely my job. After contacting Microsoft and explaining our project, the company was glad to provide us free licensing to Microsoft Office and Encarta. Without internet, an encyclopedia like Encarta was an important source of information, and the various programs within Microsoft Office introduced the students to how tasks were done in the modern world.
The most difficult facet of the operation was the logistics involved in getting the computers to the communities and in obtaining everything to make them run efficiently and productively. For the former of those two tasks, we had to calculate the mass of all the equipment and rent a truck that would adequately fit everything, without having the equipment move around too much and without having the equipment cramped too close together. For the other task, obtaining everything we needed, we thought a lot about what was necessary and personally purchased printers (one per school), network hubs, Ethernet cables, and multiple power outlet strips (to make sure we would be able to connect everything to the electricity).
Lastly, the most rewarding part of the project was its culmination, the creation of computer labs in six Oaxacan communities. This involved personally visiting the schools, installing the equipment, and teaching the kids the basics of computer usage, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Encarta. Many of the students we visited had never seen a computer before, and their curiosity and excitement over our arrival was palpable. It seemed extremely depressing that these children celebrated the arrival of what many of us would consider obsolete equipment. After all, these were used computers we had obtained as donations. Nonetheless, those smiling faces loved us; it was my most heartwarming trip ever.
These were people who truly had nothing, who depended on each other to survive. In their eyes, we had brought hope, the hope of a better future. In a world that is increasingly technologically-oriented, the computers I installed will not only be useful in educating the children, but will also prepare them for success in life. Moreover, in improving the education of these students, we have improved their futures. The children could themselves then give back to their community in the future, by implementing what they have learned. Entire towns will hopefully benefit from that summer trip I meticulously planned and undertook.
Forever grateful, the principals from the schools we helped have told me that the computers are used regularly, that the children finally have adequate learning tools, that we’ve brightened their futures. This is what my volunteer project has accomplished.
Seeing the impact of our effort, we began to think: How could we continue to help these people? How could we make this a lasting effort? Once again, I solicited the help of my three loyal friends. This new mission will involve fund raising towards Internet satellite equipment and service in one school (this will cost approximately 2000 USD for equpment plus a year and a half of service)
Furthermore, my friends and I have attempted to mold the project into a sustainable model that could be easily replicated by others. To this end, we have been working on teaching students in other schools to set up similar efforts for schools and communities in impoverished countries. Since schools in the U.S traditionally end up with high concentrations of kids from one or two nationalities, we thought we could play into their roots, and spur the creation of other projects similar to ours.
As is notable satellite internet is not cheap, thats why with the help of a 500 dollar grant Digital Conviction will be well on its way to connecting these isolated and forgotten towns to the rest world.
Feel free to check out our website: http://www.digitalconviction.com/index.htm