Camara’s, Caribbean and European Service Manager, Maureen O’Donnell has kindly documented her recent travels to the sunny Caribbean for us. Here is the first segment of her journey…

It was cold and rainy when I left Boston on Patriots Day, the day of the Boston marathon. I lived in Boston three years ago when the marathon runners were faced with 80 degrees and sunny skies. Today though no such luck. The marathoners would be running in temperatures half that, with rain and wind gusting up to 35 miles per hour in their faces. It was a tough day to be runner.

But I wasn’t there for the marathon, I was visiting a good friend over the weekend on my way from Dublin to the Caribbean. Two days in Kingston Jamaica to discuss computer support and end of life recycling options with Georgia Morgan, our project manager, then back to Miami for a layover, and then to Haiti for a week to meet with Jacinta McGuane, CEO of Camara Haiti.

In Miami I was waiting in the flight departure area feeling well out of place in jeans and a sweater, here in the midst of the mostly business suit wearing Jamaicans. A matronly woman sitting next to me quietly hummed to herself as she typed away on her tablet computer. After about ten minutes, she paused and leaned over to me asked, “excuse me, can you tell me how do I send more than one picture on this?”

Camara's, Caribbean and European Service Manager, Maureen O'Donnell with some local kids in Jamaica

Camara’s, Caribbean and European Service Manager, Maureen O’Donnell with some local kids in Jamaica

I smiled at her, but I was groaning on the inside. My IT support attempts for strangers rarely end well. More often than not when I try to help someone figure out how to use their technology, we both end up disappointed. After several minutes of poking around the screens and menu options: “Have you tried this? Oh of course you have, well how about that? No that’s the wrong thing all together. Maybe this? Well no that’s not it either…” the person ends up politely wrestling the tablet from my hands, saying “thanks, it probably can’t be done anyway”. And the question goes unanswered.

And so here I was, sitting next to a soon to be disappointed grandma…this seemed like really bad karma for the trip.

I looked over at the tablet she held in her hands, to the icons on the email screen, already practicing my “sorry but I’m not really familiar with this program” speech in my head. Preparing for the inevitable end.

But on this tablet, there was an icon that looked like a little mountain with a plus sign on the corner. Wait a minute…I know that icon! Is it possible this time I could actually help? I tentatively put my finger to the icon on screen and said, “have you tried this?” The library of pictures came up and she selected two, voila it was added to the email. And then she smiled and thanked me and told me that these pictures were from a visit to her sister that she hadn’t seen in 20 years. She was emailing them to her daughter in Kingston. And as she showed me her family photos, I didn’t feel so out of place anymore. We had connected over technology.

It reminds me of some of the schools I visit where we’ve installed Camara labs. Most of the time the children are sharing the computers, it’s not one PC per child. And because they’re sharing they learn from each other, not just about spelling or math, but about how to use computers in this digital age. And knowing how to use a computer can be the key to earning a decent wage.

I wish everyone in the world was fortunate enough to have the same opportunities I’ve had, but the hard reality is that we live in an unequal society. And so I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that helps level the playing field in education. While it’s good to be a part of something important, sometimes it’s the little unexpected things that remind of me why I believe in technology’s power to transform. Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting with another person.