During a trip with his mother to the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien, Hoang Minh Khoi, an 8th grader at Hanoi International School, happened to visit a small school there. Khoi was surprised by what children his age had deal with - the facilities were poor, and there was a lack of books and school supplies.
"In that school, there was only one computer, without any internet connection, and it was only for the teachers’ use. I thought of getting some old computers, repairing them and installing them at that school so the students could use them to study, and the teachers could use them to access the internet to find information for their students," said Khoi.
2 months later, in March last year, a project called Brown Bear Computers was born, staffed with 8th graders to 11th graders. A year later, Brown Bear has 12 members, all of them secondary and high school students. Each person has their own responsibility, from software trouble shooting to hardware repair, to soliciting donations.
In addition to computers, Brown Bear also seeks donations of school supplies and toys. This has begun to attract the attention and support of many people. Huynh Chi Mai, an 11th grader at Viet Duc High School in Hanoi, who joined Brown Bear Computers said: "Honestly, I feel so blessed and lucky to have so many parents supporting us - not just the parents of students in the group, but many others. They are very active and enthusiastic about helping us install the computers in schools."
Nguyen Cam Chi, a mother of two, said at first the family was a bit worried about letting their daughters join the group.
"Actually, I was concerned, but they have both participated in many social projects before, so I was a little bit used to the idea of doing social work or a project with other students. I ended up joining in to support my children, teaching them how to budget their time to both study and do this project," Chi said.
The past year, Brown Bear Computers has donated 14 computers, more than 400 books, milk, toys, school supplies, and other gifts to 7 schools in the mountainous provinces of Dien Bien, Son La, and Thai Nguyen. The group also donated money to build two wells and a road to a school in Son La. But the path to those achievements was not always smooth.
"The first problem came from within the group itself. One thing about Brown Bear Computers is that the members are all quite young, so most of us have very little experience when it comes to social activities. That is the reason we needed the Youth Development Fund, who helped us acquire the computers and run the project internally," said project member Huynh Chi Mai.
"The second difficulty has been repairing the computers. When I joined the group, I realized that collecting computers is not as difficult as repairing them. We are very lucky that there are many sponsors who help us, and that motivates us to keep going."
|Brown Bear Computers members have also established an e-waste collection point.
All of their effort has been repaid by a lesson on caring and sharing, the recognition of their parents and the people around them, and attention from the community. More and more old computers and computer accessories are being received, and more and more smiles are appearing on the faces of highland children.
"We appreciate the value of giving computers to those children. We are students too, and have been through two years of pandemic. We understand the importance of online learning. Many children in the highlands have not had that opportunity. Because each computer provides access to the internet, access to online learning, and gives those children a better future," Mai said.
If you want to contribute to providing better learning opportunities for disadvantaged children, or simply want contribute old computers, you can contact Brown Bear Computers to become a member of the group and continue to spread good deeds to everyone.
"We have a fan page called Brown Bear Computers with a profile picture of a brown bear so you can go to facebook and search. If you want to participate in the project, you can send us a message so we can arrange an interview, and then a training session for you," Mai said.