Participants of the University’s Global Scholars Program have issued a campus-wide call for outdated or unwanted smartphones, laptops, and tablets to donate to underprivileged children in The Gambia.
Technology - and access to information through technology - is an incredible way to level the playing field across the globe.
— Dina Franceschi, PhD, professor of economics and coordinating faculty for the Global Scholars Program.
The season of giving is in full swing, and five Fairfield University students are coordinating a campus-wide effort to spread its charitable message worldwide.
Global Scholars Nadra Al-Hamwy ’18, Joselyn Ordonez ’18, Eunsun Hong ’19, Cristopher Rafael Llopiz Osorio ’19, and Sean Tomlinson ’19, are organizing a technology drive to collect old or unwanted electronics for donation to Starfish International, a West African school for underprivileged girls where each of the five students interned last summer as part of Fairfield’s Global Scholars Program. Now through January 19, donation boxes for outdated or unwanted electronics including smartphones, laptops, and tablets, will be set up in various locations across campus including each of the University’s residence hall lounges, the Office of Diversity in the Barone Campus Center, the International Studies Office in Donnarumma Hall, and Bellarmine Hall.
“The idea is that students can go home over the winter break and collect any old electronics they might have sitting around the house. Or, they might get updated electronics as gifts and can donate their old versions when they return to campus,” said Dina Franceschi, PhD, professor of economics and coordinating faculty for the Global Scholars Program.
The electronics drive will culminate on Jan. 19, during a special Global Scholars event in Faber Hall that is being presented as part of the University’s MLK Celebration. Described by Dr. Franceschi as a “Gambian cultural exchange,” the evening will feature West African food and music, inspiring reflections by the Global Scholars interns, and a presentation by the founders of Starfish International, who will be presented with the collected donation items during their visit.
“When we traveled to The Gambia this past summer, we realized how important access to technology is for the girls and boys at the Starfish Library,” explained Al-Hamwy. “Sometimes when we wanted to research something or type out a report, there were no laptops or tablets available. It made [the students’] academic pursuits very challenging.”
Al-Hamwy explained that the donations collected during the drive will give Starfish students access to a world of knowledge that will present them with opportunities for growth and professional development. Whether or not the technology is considered outdated by industry standards, the Gambian students can use these devices to practice typing, research topics for their classes, make PowerPoint presentations to hone their public speaking skills, or give them a competitive advantage in the professional world by granting them access to programs like Word and Excel.
“Technology - and access to information through technology - is an incredible way to level the playing field across the globe,” echoed Dr. Franceshi. “Whether paralleling course work with peers from other locations, accessing health information for one’s family, or being able to access goods and services more effectively, technology has enabled all of it to be more available to the most remote of locations on our planet.”
Introduced in October 2016, Fairfield’s Global Scholars Program is a joint initiative between the International Studies and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies programs that offers students four-to-ten-week summer internships with non-profit organizations located in the Global South. Aligned with the University’s mission to develop global citizens, the program encourages student engagement with less commonly known cultures and languages, while providing a more diverse pool of students with access to exciting learning opportunities in interesting places.
“My fellow interns’ desire to organize this drive speaks to the fact that we do not want to forget about our eye-opening and defining experiences abroad,” Al-Hamwy said. “We simply cannot forget the incredible girls and boys we met during our time in Lamin Village, and we want to continue serving Starfish International in any capacity we can.”