Computer lab boosts education
Once the get-together concluded, a 14-strong delegation had other important business, which no one wanted to miss, near the heart of Sichuan's Mingshan County.
They were to be guests of honour at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a brand-new computer lab at Lianjiang Centre School. This was their team's specific contribution to the area's reconstruction after the devastating 2008 earthquake and meant that the school's 600 or so primary-level students would now have the tools and training to push ahead with their education.
"A lot of the students had not had a chance to touch a computer even before the earthquake," says Peter Mo, director and Greater China IT country manager for Credit Suisse. "Therefore, on top of what the company had already started - by donating funds and helping to build the school - we were looking for something extra to do within IT."
One of the first steps was to link up with the China Youth Development Foundation. This non-profit organisation, established in 1989, focuses on promoting education and the general advancement of young people across the mainland and had the contacts to help identify requirements and, subsequently, purchase and install the equipment.
"We realised it required some work from us and some from people who understand the landscape and logistics in China," Mo says.
A supplementary grant of about US$16,000 from the company's own philanthropic committee made it possible to plan and build a lab for use by up to 40 students at a time. It now has 20 new IBM/Lenovo computers, along with a separate teacher's workstation, printers, software, CD-Roms, and all the necessary cabling and network connections.
"[Colleagues] from our Shanghai office went there to verify everything was working and, during our visit, we spent quite a bit of time with the teacher and the students to talk through how the lab will be used," Mo says.
He is also quick to emphasise that the IT management committee's intention is to offer further practical support. This might include funding an extension in due course, exploring the possibility of short-term volunteer assignments, and contributing a similar lab for a second Credit Suisse-backed school being built nearby. "We see this as just a start and want to continue to contribute to the education of the students," Mo says. "Talking to the principal and local officials, I got the sense that they really appreciate our efforts and that we went there to spend time with the students. It was also a very good experience to see in person the impact that a charitable initiative like this can bring."
Luis Pereira, managing director and Asia-Pacific head of investment banking technology, was equally impressed by the warm welcome. "It was a very special day," he says. "I found it quite humbling; the energy and enthusiasm of the children was quite overwhelming."
- Initiative to build and equip a school computer lab in earthquake-hit Sichuan
- Plans to commit to further projects and long-term involvement
- Partnering with a mainland-based organisation for local expertise