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Technology for change: student donates a computer lab in Ghana

James Ross WinstonA simple laptop is a window to a world of possibilities. Along with many other types of communications technology, it has transformed the way people learn about the world around them. However, children in developed countries have a significant advantage over their counterparts in developing countries; especially those in Africa.

Luckily, there are the privileged few who choose to volunteer their time, energy and resources to help improve the quality of life of those less fortunate, and they learn about other cultures while doing so.

One such motivated young person is 17 year old James Ross Winston from Virginia in the United States. To him, the expression “there is a world out there waiting for you” was not just the scrawl on a bumper sticker. It was a desire he was itching to fulfil. He took full advantage of it when the opportunity presented itself in the form of the Noland Fellowship Grant. This is financial support presented once a year to one deserving senior at Woodberry Forest School to undertake a life changing project in a developing country. James travelled to Winneba in the central region of Ghana and volunteered for four weeks on the teaching project  offered by Projects Abroad.

Life in the coastal town of Winneba in the central region of Ghana is basic and volunteers are needed to improve conditions for the inhabitants. As a volunteer, James spent his time teaching ICT at the Church of Christ School but his kindness went beyond that. Concerned by the sorry state of the proposed computer lab for the school, he pulled together a great team to put up a fully equipped computer lab in two weeks. “When I came, there was just a big concrete floor – they had no windows and no electricity.”

During the first week at his placement, James oversaw the construction of the lab, which involved the installation of outlets, fans, lights, desks, windows and doors, and painting the walls. “It became more IT-centric during the second week with the installation of a projector, CISCO switch, ethernet cabling and the laptops. I also began the most rewarding part of my experience, which was teaching ICT to the kids.” James had a lot of responsibility handling virtually all aspects of establishing the computer lab.

James believes the computer lab would have never been established without Projects Abroad and its volunteers as the school lacked the necessary capital. Volunteers are not only crucial for its construction but also for its maintenance. “Projects Abroad has the connections and experience for a placement to utilize its volunteers and their expertise. I’m glad I did this. I feel that I have provided hundreds of students with their first step to being computer literate.”

Working in Winneba has given James a wealth of experience, a renewed sense of appreciation and, as he puts it, “a different way of looking at things. As cheesy as it may sound, I learned to never take anything for granted - from having reliable electricity to easily replacing a laptop part. I learnt that not all things are as simple as I am accustomed to.”

James recounted his most memorable moment as being when he was walking down the street and saw a uniformed bank guard yelling and running after him. “I was still new to the area and was certain I had done something wrong.” The man introduced himself as Patrick and thanked James for what he was doing for his two boys who attended Church of Christ School. “I have loved the genuine happiness and kindness shown towards me by the Ghanaians.”

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