Centennial College is turning outdated computers into a precious donation that promises to bring new hope to a remote part of the world.
International donations of computer technology like those from Centennial College are helping to improve computer access and skill levels in Nepal. With a little effort, outdated computers in North America can find a welcome home in countries like Nepal.
In the spirit of the season, Centennial is giving used computer parts to an international organization that's bringing the desperately needed technology to Nepal, one of the world's 10 poorest nations.
On Dec. 20, student volunteers took part in a "computer-stripping party" at the Centennial HP Science and Technology Centre, removing valuable motherboards and hard drives from the college's retired Pentium II-powered desktops.
The parts will be used to rebuild computers configured for use by Nepalese students. Canadian computers can't simply be shipped to Asia because different voltage and display standards are used in that part of the world.
The spark behind the effort was provided by IT lab technician Tenzin Shaksur and Tammy Thompson, student employment advisor in Centennial's Co-operative Education and Employment Resources office.
Between work contracts at the college, Thompson spent four months in Nepal recently working as an English teacher. She witnessed first-hand a remarkable project in Nangi village to build and equip the first public high school in the region with computer labs.
"It was the first village in northwest Nepal to get a computer lab in a government school," says Thompson. "Some children would travel a full day to attend classes, sleeping in hostels just so that they would have a chance to learn some computer skills."
She notes that computers in public schools are very rare -- most Nepalese are forced to attend expensive private schools if they want to have access to computers, but few have the means to do so.
Technician Tenzin Shaksur is a Tibetan refugee who lived in Nepal for almost 10 years prior to immigrating to Canada about four years ago. After hearing of Thompson's experience in Nepal, Shaksur brought up the idea of securing the college's old computers for the international project.
Under his direction, students from Centennial's Computer Systems and Network Technology and Computer Repair and Maintenance programs worked together to remove motherboards, hard drives, network cards, video cards and CD-ROM drives from computers donated by the college's IT department.
Centennial's popular three-year Computer Systems and Network Technology program exposes students to the latest systems and networks technology and is constantly revised to keep on top of industry changes.
Students can choose a paid co-op option in the program; there's also a two-year Technician version of the program available.
Computer Repair and Maintenance is a special one-year program that gives students plenty of hands-on experience in installing, maintaining and applying trouble-shooting techniques.
For more information about Centennial's computer studies programs, visit: www.centennialcollege.ca/setas.
The computer parts are packaged in small boxes for delivery by individual volunteers, rather than by bulk shipment (which are subject to theft). FedEx Ground donated its services to the college, delivering the parts to volunteers across North America who are intent on visiting Nepal in the near future.
Thanks to international volunteers, the project is expanding rapidly, now involving five villages linked by a wireless network and powered mainly by generators.
"Students learn the basics like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Internet skills -- even some programming languages," Thompson says. "Eventually, the village leaders would love to set up some outsourcing projects with North American and European companies, the way India has."
The worldwide effort to bring sustainable growth to Nepal is organized by Nebraska-based Himanchal Education Foundation, a non-profit corporation that supports Himanchal High School.
The project is viewed as a prototype for community-based educational development in third-world rural areas.
For more information about this grassroots project in Nepal, visit www.himanchal.org
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