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  • Glauce Fleury

Computers donated by Douglas support education abroad

Every year Douglas College replaces 400–500 PCs as part of the CEIT Evergreen project. Some PCs go to electronics recycling by certified environmentally responsible recyclers. But the bulk of our machines have been donated to charities that place them in needy organizations. One of them is St. Christopher's School, in Nanyuki, a town located 200 kilometres of Nairobi, Kenya.

"This donation is a great relief and will change the lives of many kids," says Bernard Muthu, the principal of St. Christopher's. This private institution receives students from medium and low-income areas. Most have access to computers only while at school. The donation is important because, he explains, the federal government has required schools to integrate e-learning into their curriculum.

According to Muthu, that's a challenge. Computers are expensive to the average Kenyan and not every institution, especially private, receives government funds. They use fees or contributions paid by the students' parents to make necessary improvements. The principal says that, even with low income, some middle-class families in Kenya have made the efforts to pay a private school for their kids hoping for a better future. It's not only an educational endeavour, it's social.

In Kenya, after finishing the elementary school, the students go to national secondary schools — all of them are sponsored by the government and attended by students from all levels of income. "Their social backgrounds are different, and those exposed more to technology tend to look down upon those who are not," Muthu says. He believes that the computers donated by Douglas will help his students be on the same level as others when they reach the secondary education.

The placement of computers at St. Christopher's School was coordinated by Afretech Aid Society, a Deltabased registered charity that has been supporting developing countries it's been around 20 years. Afretech's president, Bonnie Sutherland, remembers that the computers were given to the school in one day and, on the following day, the principal had everything installed. "They must have worked all night to get this set up," she says. "[These donations are] life transforming."

Bonnie and her husband, Don, both former school teachers, first travelled to the African continent in the 90s. After visiting a school, seeing its conditions and learning that the textbooks used were 40 years outdated, they realized they should do something. The couple started sending books to Zimbabwe. Now, as a charity, they're shipping a variety of equipment to different countries in Africa and Asia. Besides, they support local communities in B.C. by establishing remote libraries in First Nations' communities.

To receive donations and ship them to their destinies, Afretech relies on several organizations — Rotary Club, a global network dedicated to humanitarian causes, is one of them — and the support of 50 volunteers. "No one has ever been paid. There are no free trips," Bonnie says. With good connections, she's also president of Rotary World Help, a non-profit run by Rotary Clubs from B.C. They collect and distribute medical and educational equipment to international communities in need. "What we do changes lives."

Photo courtesy of St. Christopher's School

Originally published by Douglas College.


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