Sustainable Computer Labs in Ecuador

When sophmore Angelica Weiner arrived in Ambato, Ecuador for her summer Public Service Fellowship, she encountered a local population eager to improve its developing economy but lacking problem-solving experience. Angelica's project – to set up a sustainable computer lab in a trade school for low-income girls twelve years and older – would give women access to the information and media resources they needed to problem solve on their own.

While in Ambato, Angelica met many members of the community who each had problems and projects that they wanted to tackle. A park director asked Angelica how to stop people from stealing expensive flowers, a factory owner asked her how to market recycled plastics, and an indigenous community asked her how to build a greenhouse. "Those I interacted with on a day to day basis," she remembers, "were hungry for growth and full of ideas." However, Angelica was struck by the fact that, even though she was just a second-year college student, everyone in the city expected that she had the answers to all of their struggles.

Once this initial shock wore off, Angelica was able to both transform her own sense of herself as a leader and help empower the people of Ambato. Angelica realized that, even if she didn't know the details of recycling or how to repair computers, she could come up with a plan of action: "My most valuable skill was not having the answers, but knowing how to find them." Angelica embraced her new role as a leader in the truest way, by giving other people the means to achieve their own goals. By the end of the summer, she had set up a lab of nine donated computers in the girls' trade school, which will allow eighty girls a year to graduate with computer literacy. Angelica hopes to maintain her contacts in Ambato and continue spreading computer access so that the people of the area recognize that they, too, are able to find solutions.

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