Guam – Habele, a US-based charity, has inaugurated a computer science education program on the Micronesian Island of Pohnpei. With the generous assistance of Barbara and Ray Dalio, Habele has begun shipping computers, software, and related accessories to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Pohnpei.
The charity is working closely with Sr. Isabel Seman at Our Lady of Mercy to build the most appropriate computer lab possible for the school’s needs.
“The idea is to teach students the information technology skills they will need the rest of their lives,” said Neil Mellen, a director of Habele. “The twenty-first century is going to be online, and high school students in Micronesia need to start preparing for that reality today.”
Habele has sent the school Mac computers, monitors, peripherals, and the most common commercial software applications students will encounter. The choice of Macs rather than PCs will help familiarize Our Lady of Mercy students with the types of computers used at most of the higher education institutions in the western Pacific, assisting students with the often-difficult transition from high school to university.
Habele aims to provide the school with a total computer lab package: all the equipment needed to set up a first-rate network, plus assistance with the installation.
“So often in the past, Micronesia has seen poorly-targeted or poorly-implemented aid projects,” said Mellen. “Our donation to Our Lady of Mercy is different. These are the exact computer systems the students need, and we’re sending out a local technician to make sure it all runs smoothly.”
Habele board members and volunteers will also conduct periodic site visits to work with the school on its computer science program. A team based out of Yap is spending the last two week of October in Pohnpei, working to perfect the lab.
Since 2006, Habele has provided scholarships to K-12 students in Micronesia to attend private schools, including Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High. The scholarship program has provided access to classroom education for dozens of low-income students annually, but now the charity wants to increase access to computer training as well.
“The traditional student skills —reading, writing, and arithmetic, if you will— are still an important part of our mission,” said Mellen. “But we’re realizing more and more that students need fluency with computers and the internet as well if they’re to be full participants in the twenty-first century.”
Due to its remote location, Micronesia has historically lagged behind other countries in terms of access to information technology. Habele aims to change that on Pohnpei.
“Students around the world have a natural interest in computers. Micronesian students are no different. The stumbling block in Micronesia has been access to top-of-the-line equipment, and we’re grateful to the Dalio family and other Habele partners and volunteers for their help in rectifying that lack in Pohnpei,” said Mellen.
The fact that Habele has been working with educators at the recipient school for several years is seen as the key to the donation’s success. “No more used computers showing up in boxes, unannounced and unsupported,” said Mellen. “That’s not how Habele operates. We’ve identified a locally defined need, and we’ve worked out a sustainable program to address it directly. This is a hands-on, results-oriented approach to assistance, a gift from one group of teachers to another.”
Habele was founded by former Peace Corps volunteer in 2006. Those interested in supporting Habele’s efforts can learn more online at www.habele.org.###