This is a recap of our June 2014 Kids on Computers Mexico Trip, how awesome it was, what we did, and how it all came together.
We visit our Mexico Labs once a year. Our group trips allow us to perform technical tasks such as:
- Examining inventory and fixing any equipment that is still usable
- Replacing old computers with newly donated computers
- Installing new computers
- Upgrading OS’s and software
- Installing new content and applications on the computers
More importantly though, our trips allow us to connect with the local community and provide much needed training to teachers and kids. Visiting and conversing (or attempting to converse for some of us) with folks in the communities where we have labs is transformational (mostly for us, I think). Mothers will visit the school while we are working and offer us food and refreshments. Students will ask if they can help or more pressingly, if the computers are ready so they can play games. Teachers will stop by during the day and ask if we can show them educational apps on the computers. Everyone is so thankful and appreciative of our efforts.It is amazing how things we take for granted in the US (computers, tablets, knowing how to use a keyboard and mouse) are life-altering for people in these communities.
A majority of our volunteers are based in the US so getting to Mexico is relatively easy. In addition, we have strong in-country volunteers in Mexico who are in the same state where we have most of our labs so doing a group trip once a year is feasible.
We begin planning for our trip in January 2014. As an open source volunteer organization, there are no mandates on what needs to get done. We communicate via mailing lists, volunteers grab tasks that interest them as they come up, and we move forward.We set June 2014 as our travel month and begin planning around that. We met approximately every other week to coordinate logistics and plan for the trip. We are a completely distributed group – we have volunteers in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Mexico, and more! A meeting consists of setting up a conference call via Skype or WebEx. (That’s another reason why trips are so awesome – we get to see each other face to face!)
Here’s a summary of what we did on this trip:
- We bought and installed 22 new computers with Lubuntu 14.04, Tux Educational Games, GCompris Suite, Libre Office, KGeography, and many more apps
- We installed the RACHEL Content server (Spanish version) on five of the six Mac Minis we took to Mexico and set up local networks in 4 labs so that all computers had access to Khan Academy videos, Wikipedia, MedLine Content, and more.
- We upgraded 3 labs to have Lubuntu 14.04 on > 90% of the computers (18 de Marzo, Escuela Manuel Gonzalez Gatica (Gittes Family Lab), Escuela Ricardo Flores Magon). We also gave each of these labs 2 HP tablets for the teachers and students to try out.
- Installed a new lab at Jose Vasconcelos which included 10 computers + 9 tablets + a Mac Mini to serve RACHEL content
- Visited a lab that none of us had seen after it was set up in Molcaxac in Puebla, Mexico.
- Found a good recycling place for old equipment at a top technical university in Mexico – UTM Huajuapan.
- Met with UTM officials (including the founder and Rector of all of the UTM campuses – Dr. Seara) to discuss how we could improve computer usage and education with their help.
We were able to do so much on this trip because of some awesome people and some amazing donations:
- LogicalBricks Solutions helped us buy computers and peripherals in country and helped us with many of the travel logistics. (Some of our volunteers are founders of the company).
- HP’s Open Source Office donated 100 tablets to us back in 2012. We took 15 of them down with us on this trip.
- We received a Yahoo! Employee Foundation (YEF) Grant which allowed us to establish a Travel Fund to help partially fund volunteers who were interested in joining us on the trip, but needed help financially to do so. We accepted 3 awesome volunteers out of 10 applicants. One of the reasons we selected June for the trip was so university students could apply to travel with us during their summer break.
- During our 2013 End of Year Campaign, we received a $10,000 donation from Philip Greenspun. This donation allowed us to buy 22 computers which we distributed throughout four labs, 2 projectors, 2 DVD burners, headphones, and other peripherals. We also have some money from this donation left over to help fund a part time person who can visit the labs throughout the year. In recognition of Philip’s donation, the lab at Escuela Manuel Gonzalez Gatica was named the Gittes Family Lab in honor of Philip’s maternal grandfather.
- We received routers and cables from Cisco which a volunteer shipped to Oaxaca City and another volunteer sent via van to Huajuapan.
- We received a hardware grant from Mozilla of 10 Mac Minis. We received these Mac Minis in time for the trip because a kind Mozilla employee was willing to FedEx them to us so that they arrived the day before we left. We took 6 with us to Mexico.
KOC can not do any of this work without its volunteers. Countless hours are dedicated to preparing for trips, preparing install media, installing software, debugging hardware, troubleshooting problems, coordinating logistics, and communicating with everyone. Not to mention that most volunteer travel expenses are paid out of pocket. I want to thank the following folks for giving generously of their time and funds to travel on this trip and/or helping from back home:
- Hunter Banks
- Jacquie Bleth
- Exal Alejandro Gomez Vasquez
- Gabriel Henderson
- Javier Henderson
- Eliud Hr
- Robin Kimzey
- Corey Latislaw
- Bill Mullaney
- Hermes Ojeda Ruiz
- Stormy Peters
- Thomas Peters
- Serena Robb
- Randy Tate
- Fernando Villalobos
It feels so good to do good. This was an amazing trip and we got a lot accomplished because of these people. Thank you everyone so much!
P.S. If you’d like to join us on our next trip (Morocco in September 2014!), email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.