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March 4, 2011
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Vail Valley volunteer aims to lift Honduran community with technology

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Longtime local Reggie O'Brien makes $7.42 day.

"I'm livin' large," she said from her Peace Corps volunteer post in Honduras.

She's helping the Peace Corps celebrate its 50th anniversary by trying to raise enough money to bring 200 computers to her community.

"The do-gooders are focusing on water, and that's great. But you have to take communities to the next level. You have to answer the question, 'How do you get them competitive?'"

"It's not about sending shoes, it's about launching people into this millennium," O'Brien said during a Skype conversation from Honduras.

More than half of Honduras population is under 18 years old. Technology will level their playing field, O'Brien said.

"We don't ask people what they want. We decide what we think people need and we give it to them," she said. "Most people in Honduras have pre-paid cell phones because they want cell phones."

It's called "Bridging the Technology Gap" and it's a Peace Corps project, but she's also a Rotarian with the Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club. She's calling on people she knows to help come up with the money to buy a computer or two.

They're working with World Computer Exchange and the minimum order is 200, and she needs $18,000. She needed $22,000 when she started.

The deadline is May.

She's working with six other Peace Corps volunteers, so the computers will go to other communities, as well.

The machines come without any applications, and they're building Spanish language operating systems.

If a business owner has a computer, they can use it to figure out if they're making any money, or how to connect to the rest of the world - to make the world smaller, O'Brien said.

She took her kids on medical missions with Dr. Kent Petrie because they needed to see what it's like outside the valley.

O'Brien minces no words. She loves her Honduran community and the people. The mayor is great and is constantly working for his city. She wants to do all she can, but Honduras is a Third World country.

"While developed countries depend on smarter and smaller gadgets - the smartphone, the iPad, the 3D Wii - most others throughout the world are unfamiliar with the most basic word processor," O'Brien said.

Personal computers can help close the gap, she said.

The technology will provide speed of light education, access to new markets for domestically produced products.

The computers will go to schools, Honduran nonprofits, and students.

Her small Honduran town is home to 5,785 intelligent people with a 96 percent literacy rate, much higher than the national average. Almost 70 percent of her community is under 18.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 4, 2011 10:00PM Published Mar 4, 2011 09:57PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.