Champlain Students Helping Students Half a World Away

Abigail Barr ‘19, Anna Matich ‘20, and Jacqueline Noborikawa ‘20, founded their nonprofit organization, Techdren, following their Core class’s trip to Zanzibar in January 2018. Ashley Bladen ‘20 recently joined the team as Chief Marketing Officer.

“Even though we were on the other side of the world, at all of the schools we visited, we encountered so many enthusiastic, passionate young people who shared our dreams—dreams of successful careers in IT and related fields.”

Techdren is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing hands-on technology education to elementary and middle school students in the Tanzanian archipelago. Their mission is to “provide access to technology for all in order to further education and empower women.”

“For me, especially, hearing a little girl go, ‘I want to be a scientist when I grow up, or an engineer,’ I was like, ‘I want to help you. That’s great!’” Anna told WCAX this summer. These enthusiastic students, however, only learn about computers through their outdated textbooks. Abby, Anna, Ashley, and Jackie—all members of the Division of Information Technology & Sciences—knew they wanted to help. Their approach is three-pronged:

  1. Furthering education with hands-on learning with basic educational computer applications.
  2. Technology for all through free and open software to provide equal opportunities in a modern, tech-driven world.
  3. Female empowerment in society and education—for students and other women in the community—in order to achieve their dreams.

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As soon as the Champlain students returned to campus, they got to work fundraising and collecting donated computers from local schools, businesses, and their professors before cleaning them and equipping them with an operating system in Swahili. Techdren is working with two volunteer translators to test the computers and put together a user's manual before shipping them off.

Techdren has also raised money for two solar panels and generators to power the computers. Overall, monetary donations have reached $3,600 towards the final goal of $5,000 this year. These funds go towards refurbishing the computers, shipping and travel fees, marketing, and general donations to the school for extra supplies.

Techdren will have a booth at Vermont Tech Jam at the Champlain Valley Exposition on October 19 where they hope to connect with the tech community and collect more donations in anticipation of their planned trip back to Zanzibar in January 2019. You can also donate here and make sure to check out their website for more information.

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Techdren is this week’s Shout Out, a weekly high five to people doing amazing things at Champlain! Know someone—student, faculty, or staff—who deserves the spotlight? Nominate them by emailing studentwriters@champlain.edu!