United Methodist Communications Aids Volunteer Efforts Through Inveneo Partnership

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Training participants learn to build computer centers in developing countries

Technology has the possibility to transform people’s lives in so many different ways, especially in the developing world, in ways that we in the developed world take for granted every day.

United Methodist Communications has launched a new training initiative to support local churches that want to undertake technology projects in developing countries to improve people’s lives.

The United Methodist Church's communications agency is developing partnerships with key organizations that have expertise in applying appropriate technology solutions to meet community needs. United Methodist Communications is working with Inveneo, a business with a social mission, to provide training to assist church members who volunteer their skills and services as they prepare to set up and operate community computer centers in emerging economic regions.

“The United Methodist Church has a connection at the grassroots level that is nearly unparalleled by other types of organizations. When you take that connection and put it together with the kind of experience that Inveneo has, a global knowledge base develops,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “The possibilities are remarkable.”

“Technology has the possibility to transform people’s lives in so many different ways, especially in the developing world, in ways that we in the developed world take for granted every day,” said Kristin Peterson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Inveneo. “We’ve worked with local partners in local organizations to implement solar-powered computer labs across many, many countries in hundreds of settings.”

The first training session, held last week, gathered participants from United Methodist churches across the U.S. who have upcoming projects in Haiti to build community computer centers.

One focus of the training includes instruction on how to design and deploy computer centers that can be transferred to community stakeholders to ensure local ownership and sustainability. The training covers core elements of running a computer center in an emerging economic area, including infrastructure, such as low power computer solutions, community center management, entrepreneurship and progress assessments.

Among the first group of training participants was Clif Guy from Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, which has been working in Haiti since immediately after the earthquake. “What’s really important to us is not to do just one thing, but to think about sustainable economic development – to do things that could make a big impact over the course of decades, and not just relief of acute earthquake situation,” said Guy.

Another training participant was Warren McGuffin, director of the Thomas Food Project of the California-Nevada annual conference, which is working to build a sustainable program for feeding children based on the use of microenterprises. McGuffin says he will use the training as a template for the planning process to install community computer centers in four schools in Haiti, located in Pétionville, Hinche, Leveque and an undecided location. The centers would benefit not just the schools, but the entire communities and generate income to cover the operating costs.

Steve Elliott, team leader for California-Nevada’s Haiti Initiative, said the training was critical for the team because it helped them to start thinking through the issues they will face. “The things that are new ideas for me are the technology choices. The choices are a little more extensive and require more analysis than I expected,” said Elliott. “It's not like you can just plug into a network and it's all sitting there ready for you.”

“They gave us names of companies that can install solar power, the different applications they have used in different communities, issues that would make the use of one computer or printer better than another, and the way to go about doing your planning,” said Pam Carter, wife of Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida annual conference. “I’ve really benefitted by getting hands on knowledge of how they’ve done this and how we might replicate it.”

United Methodist Communications intends to hold similar trainings in the future as part of its mission to utilize communications to strengthen The United Methodist Church’s work in the four areas of focus: global health, ministry with the poor, church growth, and development of Christian leaders. For more information, contact Neelley Hicks at nhicks(at)umcom(dot)org.

About United Methodist Communications
As the communications agency for The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Communications seeks to increase awareness and visibility of the denomination in communities and nations around the globe. United Methodist Communications also offers services, tools, products and resources for communications ministry.

About Inveneo
Inveneo is a 501(c)(3) non-profit social enterprise whose mission is to connect and empower rural and underserved communities in the developing world with information and communications technologies (ICTs). They work with and serve organizations that deliver vital education, healthcare, economic development and relief services to some of the poorest communities in the world, enabling these organizations – NGOs, governments, and others – to more effectively serve people in need through technology.

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Diane Degnan
United Methodist Communications
(615) 742-5406
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