intel_cm3_2“It’s Friday night, and six Intel employees, sitting in a row, are sweating buckets,” Jason Cheah recalls of his first day in Vietnam.  “We’re sitting in a wide open courtyard in an orphanage, surrounded by what must be 80 children, from screaming young toddlers to brooding older teens. Suddenly, the kids break out into coordinated song, and the still night air reverberates with a popular local tune. We can’t help but attempt to clap along with the rhythm.”

Cheah and five Intel colleagues were starting an adventure in Quang Tri, a rural community in the middle of Vietnam. The night before they had spent their first night in Vietnam in a Quang Tri hotel attempting to check office eMail at 10:45 p.m. while trucks, 8-wheel trailers, scooters, and all manners of buses rumbled by outside.

The six volunteers, three from the United States and three from Vietnam, were there as part of the Intel Education Service Corps, a new Corporate Social Responsibility initiative designed to help children and teachers in underprivileged communities around the world learn how to use laptops and video camcorders to strengthen their education and enhance their lives.

Supporting the Intel team was Tad Kinkaid, the director of Orphans Overseas, a Laos-based non-government organization, and his team.  Tad’s team was deploying 10 Intel-powered classmate PC’s at this orphanage, with Intel’s volunteer employees providing help in the form of set-up and training. It wasn’t easy; with back-to-back training classes and a seemingly endless routine of setting up and configuring the laptops, the volunteers were dead tired.

“But tonight, looking up at a cloudless sky and surrounded by kids singing their lungs out, aching muscles, bleary eyes and sore throats are temporarily forgotten–everyone’s beaming wide and clapping along,” Cheah wrote in a blog of his experience.

Back to the beginning

As part of Intel’s ongoing commitment to improving education through the effective use of technology, Intel launched the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) in September 2009.  The program is designed to be a short-term career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to travel to a developing country to directly support the deployment of classmate PCs, custom designed to provide powerful, rugged computing performance and software applications to support teaching and learning. The PC features the Intel Atom processor–built for low power consumption and designed specifically for a new wave of devices optimized for mobility.

As of mid-2010,the IESC has deployed more than 50 Intel employees in nine teams to work with non-governmental organizations in countries such as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Egypt, India, Kenya, and Vietnam, setting up Intel-powered classmate PCs and training teachers and children in their use.  To date, the program has benefited more than 15,000 students and hundreds of teachers.

The pitch to potential volunteers has been simple: “Have you always wanted to get involved with Intel’s efforts to improve education?  Are you looking for an opportunity to apply your unique skills to a high-impact volunteer project?  Do you want to make a difference in the lives of children in a developing country?”

Before deploying, volunteers receive approximately 30 hours of virtual and face-to-face training during a four-week training phase.  Although there is a large prepared curriculum, volunteers also have the opportunity during training to work with their team members to prepare their own lessons and materials to be used on the project. The training phase of the project is conducted in parallel with an employee’s existing role at Intel.

The in-country assignment lasts two weeks, during which time volunteers set up necessary hardware and software, as well as teach students, teachers and/or parents to use the Intel-powered classmate PC. During the deployment, local transport and lodging is coordinated by the NGO and volunteers live and work under the same conditions as locals.  Volunteers will also be encouraged to share their experiences with the broader Intel community via blogs and other social media while on assignment.  For the two-week in-country phase of the project, employees are expected to arrange coverage for their permanent role at Intel.

During a two-week post-deployment phase, volunteers are responsible for presenting their project results at Intel.  Volunteers return to their existing Intel roles during this phase and are able to conduct their post-event activities in parallel with their regular responsibilities.

Connecting in Bangladesh

Four other Intel employees recently took on the task of introducing computers in two primary schools in a remote corner of Bangladesh.  Working with Save the Children USA, they installed 60 classmate PCs donated by Intel’s World Ahead program and provided basic computer training.