Wednesday, November 3, 2004

UH volunteer plugs into
Samoan students’ ‘alofa’


Thursday, November 11, 2004

» University of Hawaii student Shawn Barnes has refurbished 65 computers that are being shipped to several rural schools in Western Samoa. A Nov. 3 article on Page A13 incorrectly reported that the computers would be sent only to the village of Vaitoomuli.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

Former Peace Corps volunteer Shawn Barnes' heart is still in Western Samoa with the families who welcomed him into their community.

That's why the University of Hawaii graduate student has single-handedly collected and refurbished 65 computers to send to the village of Vaito'omuli on the island of Savai'i.

When he first began working as a teacher in Samoa in 2000, he was amazed at the cultural differences and the extension of "alofa," called aloha in Hawaii, Barnes said.

"The love they had for strangers was incredible. It is so powerful and strong, the hospitality of the people. They really accept people and make them a part of the community. I was adopted by a family there," said Barnes, who grew up in rural northeastern Pennsylvania.

While teaching, he obtained five ancient computers "so old they had 250-megabyte hard drives and no CD drives."

"This was the first time that most of my students had seen a computer. Computers quickly became a favorite class among students because it was hands-on learning rather than strict memorization. Unfortunately, my school was one of the only schools on Savai'i to have computers," Barnes said.

When he started studying at UH, he passed the word around that he was collecting old computers, and "was surprised at the number of people throwing away computers" that were still working.

Computers will be shipped free by Matson Navigation and Polynesian Line, he said.

Polynesian Airlines of Honolulu donated a round trip to Samoa six months ago so he could set up for the computers; UH let him use a storage room on the lower campus; Goodrich Trading Co. gave him more than 100 boxes and packing materials; and the Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation lent its expertise and gave him 30 computers.

When Barnes continues his graduate studies in archaeology in New Zealand next year as an exchange student, HOSEF and the Hawaii Computers for Kids Program will take over his computer collection and refurbishment mission. HOSEF can be reached at 689-6518, and Hawaii Computers at 521-2259.

Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation


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