Linux Against Poverty...
No one knew really what to expect.
Some, mostly out of not knowing exactly what to call it, referred to it as an install-fest. Others simply lumped it under the heading of "Charity Event".
It wasn't really either of those things...but it was all of those things and more...
The BrainChild of Linux Against Poverty is Lynn Bender, a local network and database guru. Linux Against Poverty began as a simple idea. Lynn could gain access to a corporate pool of decommissioned computers. He could rally the aid of Linux/Tech professionals in Central Texas.
His purpose? Give kids who would normally never have a computer in the home an even shot at their future.
A level playing field
A bridged Digital Divide
Pick your cliche'...
But regardless of what you call it, the goal of this global project can be found in the one-sentence phrase that defines The HeliOS Project:
"A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated on the ability to afford it."
It seemed that the two organizations shared the same goals.
Lynn could pull the first two things together easily, but he didn't have the network in place to get the computers into the right hands.
That is, until he heard of The HeliOS Project. Once he knew he could get the machines into the homes that needed them, he proceeded to execute his plan. That plan was Linux Against Poverty. In concert with myself and the Directors and volunteers of The HeliOS Project, Lynn put the plan into action.
To gather as many decent computers and hardware components as possible and make them ready for those who really need them.
Initially planned as a global event, it became obvious in a short time that others may not have the experience in organizing such a massive undertaking. The project was quickly tailored to execute in Austin first, document it thoroughly, then pass the documentation along to anyone who wanted to do the same thing.
Linux Against Poverty is unique in the fact that it marries the local tech community to both the municipality and the business community. Only when all of these entities are in step will this particular model be successful.
Saturday, the first day of August, 2009 saw the undeniable success of a well-executed plan. It wasn't flawless and without it's unique challenges and anxieties...but it happened and it happened on the backs of about 43 selfless, giving geeks. And that is what I want to tell you about.
The HeliOS Project works toward a noble cause, but it is not self sufficient. It relies upon the compassion, dedication and willing sacrifice of others.
Not exactly an easy thing to lay hands upon these days...unless you are in Austin Texas.
Arriving about 12 o'clock on Saturday, the volunteers for the project began arriving in groups...there was no "organizational meeting", no pep talks, no motivational speeches...those with an inherent leadership spirit quickly organized the teams that were to fuel this event and they went to work. No fanfare, no pre-event pom-pom waving...
45 people simply began busting their collective asses to get the job done.
I opened the back of the truck that myself, Mark Van Kingsley and Roy Hall had loaded early that morning and without anyone saying a word, a chain formed to move the 53 existing project machines into the staging area. It was already hot and it only took moments for the sweat to start pouring. The computers were neatly stacked and made ready to hit the line.
Before the day ended, over 40 computers were handed over the wall between the street and the outdoor patio of Union Park...the place that was our staging area for machines yet to see triage. These were additional machines brought by either citizens or representatives of local businesses in and around Austin.
Inside, people were quickly assembling tables, stringing cable and checking electrical circuits to get the different stations ready for the day. Most of these people were meeting for the first time but you wouldn't know it. They melded into a focused and purposful single unit...it was strangly quiet...everyone moved as if this had been rehearsed often.
It had not been...not at all.
I don't think I've ever seen such a complex and large effort come together so smoothly. And this isn't gracious hyperbole...this was an event that truly took its inspiration from its mission. Women worked quickly along side of men, picking up heavy server units and computers to put them into their places. During the entire day, I did not hear one complaint or gripe. And for those who might want to still refer to women as "the weaker sex...?
You might want to rethink that phrase.
Everyone knew what their work would accomplish and it was probably one of the most humbling moments I have ever experienced, exceptions none. There were major corporate CIO's and Senior Executives like Andy Krell from nFusion and Greg Poole from AMD loading and unloading trucks along side of...well, guys like me. They scraped knuckles on sharp metal edges and lifted computers until their backs ached.
Life-station and position or accomplishment meant nothing for this amazing 6 hour timespan...
It was all about getting computers into the homes of kids, who under any other circumstance, would never have one.
We will talk more about Linux Against Poverty in the next couple of weeks. There is simply too many stories inside of this one amazing story to be told at one time. However I do want to take this time to say something to the people that came together to make this thing happen.
This...event, this singularly astounding convergence of talent, dedication and compassion was successful because of you. No amount of planning or networking can make events like this succeed without people that care to the very core of their being. The fact that you all gave of yourself so completely to make Linux Against Poverty happen is....well, not to over-use the term, but you humble me by your actions. On behalf of The HeliOS Project and our volunteers I want to thank you for the gift you have so freely given the disadvantaged children of this community.
As well, a very special thanks goes out to Mark Van Kingsley of Sidney New York. Mark made the trip on his own dime all the way from the East Coast and was an invaluable help to me personally. Thank you Mark...you went way above and beyond the call.
As well, I would like to say a special thank you to Roy Hall who went way out of his way to assist me personally when things just too crazy to manage myself.
These kids will however, know that there is a bit of each one of you inside that shiny new computer we give them. We were going to engrave a name on the next 42 computers given out, each one representing a person that took part...but I have a better idea. A roster of your names will be presented to them on an attractive HTML home page, every time they turn on their machines. I think more than 42 kids need to know who you are.
These are only a fraction of the photos taken at Linux Against Poverty. Thank you to Nari and Bruce Roberts for the photos taken on this page. Once all the photographers have sent us their pictures, we will make a Linux Against Poverty gallery and post it via the blog of helios.
As well...while we did a fantastic job of collecting and repairing computers, we fell terribly short in gaining any real operating funding for The HeliOS Project. The media coverage we did get came very late in the time frame and people just did not have the exposure to our event they should have. Fact is, it will be pretty hard to get these computers delivered when we simply don't have the money to get there. We would appreciate it if you could click the donate button at the top left of this page and once again....give us a hand. Thank you. - h
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Linux Against Poverty...
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 8:52 PM