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Intel Education Service Corp: Uganda bound and ready to make a difference

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Note from the Blog Manager: In 2009, Intel launched the Intel Education Service Corp, a program that allows Intel employees to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries all over the world. The following is an email received from a colleague and friend who will be embarking on the next trip in April 2011. Donna is one of the Co-Program Managers for the Rotational Engineer Program and is based out of New Mexico.

Dear friends and family,

Some of you are already aware of my opportunity to go to Uganda with the Intel Education Service Corp (IESC) in April. For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid my endless chatter about it, here's some background. The IESC has been in existence for about 18-24 months. It is an arm of Intel that funds about 25 people organized into five teams to travel to a developing country to work on a volunteer project focused on computer education twice each year—spring and fall. The teams spend two weeks working with a local foundation or non-profit in local schools, orphanages, community centers, etc. This spring the five teams will be heading to Vietnam, Kenya, India , Uganda and Zambia. Every Intel employee is eligible and there is a lot of interest in joining these teams so a large number of people apply.

I was thrilled when I learned that my 250 word application had earned me a phone interview and even happier when I was notified in early February that I had been selected for the Ugandan team. Our team has members from Oregon, Arizona, Costa Rica —and of course New Mexico. Given my background in education and technical training, I was selected to be the lead trainer for the team. We also have a project manager (his primary job being to handle all the logistics and the budget), two 'techies' (they'll be the guys making sure the little classmate PCs are powered up and functioning) and another trainer (would you believe his day job is that of in-house legal counsel!?).

We are gradually gaining details about where we'll be going and what we'll be doing—although this seems to be a bit fluid—shifting from week to week. I guess the message is that we should be prepared to work with a wide range of students—from children in primary school all the way to young adults—how's that for a lesson planning challenge! The common denominator seems that it will be highly unlikely that they will have any prior experience working (or even touching!) a computer. We know that we'll be working from a 'mobile classroom' which consists of a large pop up tent, two sets of benches and a solar panel mounted on the top of a Rav4 SUV.

If you'd like to read about and see photos from some of the other IESC teams you can find things posted to YouTube —nothing from the last team in Uganda but you'll get the general concept of the program.

I think I'm ready—I have an old surplus suitcase filled with pencils (a precious commodity in Uganda), chalk (for the teachers!), pens, crayolas, coloring books, power strips, mouse pads (a little publicity for Intel!) and stickers (apparently highly valued by the under 12 set) that I've been collecting over the last four weeks. Many friends have so generously contributed—I feel like I'm the front man for a whole army of kindhearted Americans. At the last weigh in it was still well under the 50 lb limit.

Then there's the 'other' suitcase—this one filled with my clothes (2 sets—I've embraced the 'travel light' philosophy!), lots of EmergenC, a micro-fiber towel, the camera, a netbook and lots of sunblock and insect repellant. My little yellow immunization record is filled with lots of new entries and I'm set to start my anti-malarial tablets next week. My passport has a very impressive multi-entry visa for Uganda. So it must be real!

I'll be leaving next Thursday, April 7, heading first to Atlanta (where I'll have a four-hour layover), then Amsterdam (where I'll have another three-hour layover), then Kigali (2 hours) and finally into Entebbe—a mere 30 hours after leaving Albuquerque. I am arriving 24 hours ahead of the rest of the team so will spend Saturday on my own exploring the old British capital of Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria. On Saturday night the whole team will travel to Kampala. We officially start on Monday, April 10. The project concludes on Friday, April 22, but I have opted to stay on an additional week to look at animals and birds. Right now the plan is to go with another team member to Murchison Falls—a national park rich in history and wildlife.

I will be sending updates and sharing my experiences along the way—maybe some photos as well.

Ciao, Donna