The International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program – a collaboration between Heineman Foundation of Charlotte and Carolinas HealthCare System – was approached by Mr. Fernando Paiz, a member of Heineman’s Board of Directors, with the request to partner with Microsoft Corporation and Fundación Sergio Paiz Andrade (FUNSEPA), a Guatemalan non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting education, in a unique initiative to modernize the public school system in Guatemala.

The initiative, Technology to Educate, aims to equip 19,000 schools in Guatemala with computer laboratories and help children and adults in rural communities thrive in today’s digital society and workplace.

Education in Guatemala

Guatemala is comprised of a population of approximately fifteen million, where half live in poverty (the daily income is less than US $1.60), and 1.7 million live under conditions of extreme poverty. One of the leading causes of poverty in Guatemala is the limited exposure and the less than ideal quality of educational opportunities. Education in Guatemala is free and compulsory for six years. However, out of the 18,000 primary public rural schools, 95% have no access to technology, only 75% of students enroll and only 30% of those who began primary school complete this level of education. The mean year of schooling in 2011 was 4.1 years. This virtually guarantees the persistence of the vicious circle of poverty, low employment, poor health and illegal immigration.

Technology to Educate Project

Between 2011 and 2013, the IMO Program donated more than 18,000 pieces of computer equipment and materials, enough to assemble more than 8,000 computers. IMO collects deaccessioned but still viable computers, wipes the hard drives clean using Tableau Drive Wiper (a method which is approved and used by the United States Department of Defense), and ships them to Guatemala where the software is installed by Microsoft, and the computers are distributed by FUNSEPA to the rural schools in Guatemala. To receive computer donations, schools must apply and meet certain criteria, such as having adequate space, electricity and doors with locks. In Guatemala, FUNSEPA hires young adults for two-year contracts to install the software and clean the hardware. As such, they gain computer skills that will help them in the job market.

Computer Training

As part of the initiative, FUNSEPA provides computer training for teachers. FUNSEPA team members travel to rural schools to perform training classes in laboratories near the teachers. Training attendance usually exceeds 100% as teachers in the area always are eager to participate and expand their computer skills. One teacher, for example, developed math software from his training and won first place at the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum.

The computer are extremely well received, not only by students and teachers, but also by the parents who are educated on the computers after school hours at night. Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, President of The Heineman Foundation of Charlotte said, “It is an unforgettable experience to see the children who have never been exposed to modern technology, “work the computers” with absolute self-assurance within hours after having been introduced to them.”

Request for Assistance

In May 2013, Dr. Robicsek approached the Charlotte Chamber in Charlotte, North Carolina to request their aid to encourage local businesses to donate their old computers to the Heineman Foundation.

If you or your company or organization deaccessions any used, functional computers or printers, please consider donating them to our project. We will be glad to make all the necessary arrangements to collect the equipment and purge the data. To participate in this life-changing program, contact Lisa Freeman at the Heineman Foundation. Your donation is tax-deductible and can have a significant impact on the lives of children globally.