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Chicago Group Sending 700 Computers To Kids In Latin America

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Jack O'Donnell, coordinator of the Chicago chapter of the World Computer Exchange, stands with pallets of 700 computers being shipped to needy students in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. (Credit: Bernie Tafoya)

Jack O’Donnell, coordinator of the Chicago chapter of the World Computer Exchange, stands with pallets of 700 computers being shipped to needy students in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. (Credit: Bernie Tafoya)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A non-profit organization has begun shipping 700 computers to needy students in Mexico and the Dominican Republic

Trucks will be loaded Friday morning and afternoon at the Mount Greenwood storage facility of the Chicago chapter of the World Computer Exchange.

Chapter coordinator Jack O’Donnell said, for the most part, the 400 refurbished computers going to Mexico and 300 going the Dominican Republic will be the “first computers (these students) get.”

O’Donnell said the computers are “life-changing for most of them.”

He said most of the 700 computers were donated by Chicago area companies. The machines are usually four to six years old.

O’Donnell said 85 volunteers from World Computer Exchange have been working for the last seven months to put together the two shipments that leave for Latin America on Friday.

When the computers were donated, their hard drives were erased, and new software was installed in the language where the computers wind up.

“We are able to take an older computer and make it as fast and useful as a modern machine,” O’Donnell said.

Included in the software is 10 gigabytes (GB) of Wikipedia and 15 GB of textbooks.

O’Donnell said a lot of software is put on the computers because, sometimes, Internet availability is poor or overly expensive. The software allows students to still have access to tremendous amounts of information without an Internet connection.

O’Donnell, a retired teacher, said he knows the importance of students of having access to computers. He said for them to have that in developing countries because of the work of the World Computer Exchange “is a phenomenal feeling.”

He said the feedback he gets is mostly in the form of pictures.

“It’s very interesting to see where our computers end up. Sometimes they’re in rooms without concrete floors and with no windows,” O’Donnell said.

He also said some communities are so excited when the computers are delivered, that “I’ve seen movies of village celebrations when computers come in.”

O’Donnell said 95 percent of the computers are corporate donations, while the rest come from individual donors.

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