Virginia Oblate Associates Continue to Provide Computers to Haiti

By Denny Baumann and Will Shaw

For many years, Oblate Associates from Virginia (known as Virginia Oblate Partners) have been supplying used and refurbished computers to mission schools operated by the Missionary Oblates in the U.S. and overseas, an outreach spearheaded by Denny Baumann and other retired and working friends with knowledge, time, and energy to support the effort.  Most recently, they’ve been working to make computers available to students and medical professionals in our hemisphere’s poorest country, Haiti.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Haitian classroom outfitted with computers from the Virgina Oblate Associates

More than 20 years ago, Baumann began seeking donations of computers that had been used but were in good condition from large companies and public school systems that were updating and replacing computer hardware. After a bit of refurbishing, these computers were a Godsend to schools in poorer areas that had no budget for such “luxuries.” A former airline pilot, Denny has worked tirelessly to network with other religious denominations, and retired and still working volunteers to make a difference for, “ The Poorest of God’s Poor.”

Since about 2009, the group has been focusing their efforts on the island nation of Haiti, starting with Oblate ministries and moving on to include schools run by a variety of religious denominations. The effort now is sending laptops, which are much easier to ship.  According to Bauman, “We now have more than 1,500 computers in schools all over Haiti. These schools include elementary, secondary, university, even clinics for medical education.”

UNDH LAPTOP 1 - Copy

But providing computers was just the beginning. In many areas of Haiti no internet connection is available, or if one is, the schools cannot afford to get connected. So, in his typically creative fashion, Denny came up with a solution: “…we provide these schools with our version of the internet in a box (HIIAB) which contains all of Wikipedia in English, French and Kreyol, about 1,500 books from the Gutenberg Book Project in all three languages, and all the lessons from the Kahn Academy in French.” 

While providing the computers and the ‘Internet in a Box’ to schools, another pressing need was discovered: the need for medical information and reference materials at numerous remote medical clinics throughout rural Haiti. These clinics, typically run by a nurse and assistants, desperately need medical reference and educational materials for the training of new assistants and for patient education.

denny 1 - Copy

The shop where computers are refurbished. (L-R) Ken Trexler (Back to camera), Jack Dunlop, and Denny Baumann. The final 10 laptops for Haiti are seen on the desk.

Having recruited a number of U.S. doctors and nurses to find appropriate medical educational materials, this information is now being loaded into their “Medical Information in a Box” (MIIAB). The available material includes medical books, video lectures, and fact sheets providing a ready reference library to clinics that are rarely visited by doctors. As much as possible, the information is provided in French and Kreyol. 

Would you like to help with this effort?  Prayers for the success of the efforts are always needed and appreciated.  The two hardest parts of this outreach effort are:  1.  Finding ANY kind of reading materials in Kreyol.  If you know of a source for Kreyol reading materials please contact us.  2.  Simply getting all of these laptop computers into Haiti.  Do you know someone (parish, missionaries, other churches) traveling to Haiti that could assist in getting these computers to their destination?  We have found the easiest way to deliver laptops is for individuals traveling to Haiti to hand carry them in their carry-on luggage. For further information contact Bob Marsh or Kathy Marsh at bandkmarsh@verizon.net or call 703-368-7276.