Visiting Fiji for the first time and on a village tour through the remote areas of this beautiful island, I was struck by the sight of an old (nonworking) computer in an otherwise empty classroom at the Koroinasau Primary School. Looking at these children, so eager to learn but without sufficient resources, I thought of my own students in the Netherlands at Regio College, a community college close to Amsterdam where I work as the director of the ICT department.
My students come to school with their own laptops and have every opportunity provided to them so they may succeed in life. And I thought of what a wonderful lesson it would be for them to learn how fortunate they are by getting to know the children in Fiji, getting to know their circumstances and how they can be helped by the skills my students are learning in information technology (IT). It was this thought that inspired me to start a foundation called “Bear with Us” to bring technology and education to remote areas in the South Pacific and other parts of the world.
My colleagues and I started by setting up a project for our students to refurbish old computers, donated to the school by British Telecom, our service provider, and providing IT services to the personnel. In addition, we incorporated fundraising activities for our students into the curriculum of their “learning, career planning, and civic responsibility” competencies.
We recently raised enough money to send our first donation, consisting of mini Oxford dictionaries for the children’s language classes and a yearlong Internet connection for the one notebook computer they have acquired since then. It is our ultimate goal to provide the school’s four classrooms and library with computers and an Internet connection. “Bear with Us” is a perfect fusion of my interest in the use of technology in education, and my passion for service, both enhanced by my experience at Pepperdine.
To learn more about the foundation, visit www.bearwithuseducation.org.