Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Press Control+P For Progress

Posted on behalf of Deron Denton

Amid the click-clack of keyboards and the persistent hum of a large air conditioning window unit straining in the Honduran midday heat, children are putting computers to good use.

We are in the neighborhood of Asentamientos Humanos, on the outer reaches of San Pedro Sula. This new computer learning center, made possible through Children International’s youth program, has been up and running for about one week.

Youth leaders who are democratically chosen by their peers determine how to spend a given amount of funds to benefit their community. The youth program was developed to support and empower youth, encouraging them to hone leadership skills and implement ways to improve their surroundings. The youth leaders in Asentamientos Humanos decided to spend their allotment of funds on this lab, which consists of 10 computers.

In addition to the myriad of services that every Children International community center provides, this one is now offering all youth in the community an opportunity to develop vital skills; specifically, how to use a computer and navigate the Internet.

“It’s one way to keep youth away from gangs…to help them build stability in their own life and for their families,” says a mature 16-year-old Joel Arita, one of the youth who helped start the program.

What Joel and the rest of the youth leaders know is that familiarity with computers is as fundamental to success in today’s world as is reading and writing…practically indispensable for anyone trying to find decent employment, much less trying to break free from poverty.

A part-time instructor was hired to provide formal training to sponsored youth in the mornings. In the afternoons, the computer lab becomes a cyber-café, open to all in the community for a nominal fee. Sponsored youth pay half-price. The money goes back into the lab for maintenance and other needs.

Joel and another youth program member, Alberto Rivas, are assisting and supervising younger sponsored children. On the afternoon of our visit, they are visibly proud of the project and their role in creating it.

“It’s nice to be able to help kids learn how to use computers and discover the Internet,” says Alberto.

Joel recounts how he had helped a sponsored youth a day or two earlier: “A boy of about 12 came in who had never been on a computer or used the Internet before, and I taught him. It’s very gratifying,” he says.

Since this computer center is the only one in the entire community, it looks like Joel, Alberto and the rest of the youth leaders can look forward to a successful – and fulfilling – adventure. It is likely to pay off, in more ways than one, for years to come.

This story originally appeared in the October 2005 edition of Children International's eNews under the title, "Youth Program Creates Cyber-Café." To view our archive of eNews stories, click here.

Photo by Jennifer Spaw.

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