When John Cartwright traveled to earthquake-shattered Haiti in 2011 to install a computer lab in an elementary school, he never imagined that one of the lives most impacted by the experience would be his own.
I don’t know how you quite describe that look, that spark that you see in their eyes. Just joy, utter joy for learning.
At the time, the Intel IT manager was a member of a team sent there as part of the Intel Employee Service Corps. The program, launched in 2009, seeks to improve the quality of education and access to technology in developing countries, while enhancing Intel’s reputation and boosting employees’ skills and job satisfaction.
Volunteers receive extensive training and travel in teams to help set up technology in environments ranging from education to health to agriculture.
The program has been described as Intel’s version of the U.S. Peace Corps.
Chosen volunteers often possess a unique set of skills. Cartwright, for example, not only offered valuable technical expertise, but also practical skills acquired from his formative years growing up on a farm and from building two houses.
So when the team arrived in Haiti to discover that the school where they intended to install the computer lab was still under construction and had no electricity, Cartwright grabbed a tool belt and went to work, helping the local contractors run wiring to the school while his teammates moved teacher training to a nearby hotel.
During their two-week stint in the country, Cartwright and team finished the installation of the computer lab, installed interactive learning software, and provided training for teachers to help them improve pedagogy and effectively integrate the new technology into instruction.
The Intel team also gleaned valuable insights that they could take back home with them, such as how to make Intel’s education solutions more relevant in resource-constrained regions of the world.
For example, the adaptive learning software deployed by Cartwright’s team in Haiti was originally designed to run on a wired network powered by a back-end server that required air conditioning and a battery back-up system.
I had to ask myself ‘Is that really sustainable? Is it extendible to other schools?’ The answer was no.
After returning home, Cartwright helped reengineer the application so that it could run wirelessly using an Intel® Classmate PC as the server.
Additionally, Cartwright realized how quickly technology can become out of date, leaving systems in need of patching or reconfiguration. As a result, he worked to develop services that enable PCs and tablets nearly anywhere in the world to be remotely serviced, updated, and reconfigured.
But, perhaps the most important takeaway for Cartwright, personally, came from his interactions with the Haitian people and, in particular, the children he had the opportunity to work with and teach.
The students were so excited and inspired, and there was such an outpouring of appreciation. I felt like a rock star.
Being able to deliver such an experience to children who might not otherwise have such an opportunity to improve their lives was, for Cartwright, extremely moving.
So when, six months later, the Intel Employee Service Corps was headed back to the same Haitian school to provide additional support, Cartwright jumped at the chance.
And when, the following year, a team was headed to Africa, Cartwright volunteered again, despite the fact that he was on an extended sabbatical at the time.
This time, he led a volunteer team to Kenya to deploy the model he’d developed for classrooms without power in Haiti. Not only had Cartwright adapted the system to run wirelessly from a PC, instead of a server, it could also be powered by a car battery.
Cartwright spent five weeks in Kenya, volunteering at a preschool and a community education center, where he installed a computer lab with multiple Classmate PCs and adaptive learning software.
While there, he helped preschoolers learn to navigate the PCs to supplement their classroom learning and boost their chances of passing the kindergarten entry test required of all students prior to acceptance in a kindergarten program.
Again, and again, he saw “that look” in the children’s eyes.
By this time, Cartwright was hooked.
When the Intel Employee Service Corps does work in developing countries, volunteers work closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments.
In 2014, Cartwright joined the board of one of these NGOs, Hands in Outreach, a nonprofit working to provide education for girls in Nepal, where he has spent significant time conducting outreach in recent years.
The Intel Employee Service Corps
The Intel Employee Service Corps is an innovative skills-based volunteer program that harnesses the passion of Intel employees while advancing the company’s mission to push the boundaries of smart and connected technology to make amazing experiences possible for every person on Earth.
Intel Employee Service Corps volunteers work with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries.
With extensive training and preparation, volunteer teams provide technical assistance on the installation and maintenance of technology, as well as training for end users on effective usage. The program supports Intel® solutions deployed to address global challenges ranging from education and digital inclusion to agriculture and healthcare.
In addition to the benefits delivered to underserved communities around the world, more than 90 percent of IESC alumni report increased confidence in leadership, teamwork, dealing with ambiguity, cross-cultural situations, training/coaching, and inspiring others.