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A computer called “Vuli”

Keoki Pelfrey, IT manager, preps one of the computers that will be repurposed and shipped to a school in Fiji, where 5-10 students generally share one machine. (PHOTO BY CATHERINE TARLETON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Keoki Pelfrey, IT manager, preps one of the computers that will be repurposed and shipped to a school in Fiji, where 5-10 students generally share one machine. (PHOTO BY CATHERINE TARLETON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Some of the Fiji-bound computers, staged and ready at Mauna Kea Resort. (PHOTO BY CATHERINE TARLETON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Some of the Fiji-bound computers, staged and ready at Mauna Kea Resort. (PHOTO BY CATHERINE TARLETON| SPECIAL TO NHN)

“I took my dad to Fiji for his 75th birthday,” said Jacqueline Awa, controller for Mauna Kea Resort on the Kohala Coast. She and her father, Harold “Heloke” Awa, are both avid divers and Dad loves to fish, so visiting cousin John Llanes’ Makaira Resort on Taveuni Island was a natural.

“My cousin’s wife Roberta was doing a volunteer project with the Catholic school there,” said Awa. “She said that one computer was being shared by five to 10 children in the classroom … I knew we were phasing out the old computers and asked Keoki if it was feasible, even worthwhile, for them to be donated.”

Keoki Pelfrey, IT manager for Mauna Kea Resort, was already working on an overall upgrade for the resort’s office computers, and looking for options for the outgoing machines. Because there is no electronic waste collection currently on this island, the idea of repurposing them for school use was appealing on several levels, including the resorts green policies.

The school, Holy Cross College, is a Catholic Mission School in Taveuni, Fiji.

“The name is a bit deceiving because in the USA we tend to think of college as a university, whereas in this particular school’s case it represents elementary, intermediate and high school which they call primary and secondary schools,” said Roberta Llane. “It was established in 1973 and was known as Wairiki Secondary School before it adopted the name of the cross that identifies with the place.”

The 585 students come primarily from disadvantaged communities, where most families make their living farming dalo (taro) and kava (awa). School is not free in Fiji and many families choose to educate only their oldest child, as even a nominal tuition payment is a burden. Power supply is another problem. Because there is no electric company on Taveuni, technology is dependent on individual generators.

Most of the school’s supplies, fixtures and teaching materials have been donated over the last 40 years.

“It is a real challenge for the teaching staff to teach updated information,” said Roberta, “Which brings us to the real necessity of the computer classroom … With the introduction of new computers, where each student can have their own, they can master computer technology as well as having an Internet connection that will serve as a study hall/library after hours that will open the world’s knowledge to each of these bright, dedicated students. It will literally change their life and bring them into the 21st century.”

Working with the resort management staff, Pelfrey and Awa were able to craft an upgrade plan and begin the process, with a commitment of 40 Fiji-bound computers. Because the resort systems include volumes of confidential information, each machine must have its memory wiped clean prior to leaving the property.

They contacted Holy Cross Principal Sakini Inikasio and computer teacher Aisake Moceiwai in order to coordinate logistics and details. Pelfrey said the school will receive working WindowsXP machines, which the resort needs to replace because next year, Microsoft will stop providing security patches and updates. When that happens, the outgoing machines will no longer meet PCI (payment card industry) standards.

“The computers are being reformatted with Linux so they will be usable right out of the box without causing any software licensing issues for our resort,” said Pelfrey, “The software being installed is Linux Mint which includes a suite of productivity software.”

Pelfrey and the IT Team, La Saelee, and director Ryan Doi, have all 40 machines complete, prepped and ready for shipment. With a creative twist, they’ve named the computers “vuli-01, vuli-02, vuli-03, etc.,” which is the Fijian word for “learn.” They actively seeking clean and working SVGA computer monitors, with cables to send with the computers, and any donations are gratefully appreciated.

In addition, although Holy Cross College is fundraising to cover shipping costs, the team would welcome assistance from companies or individuals who would like to help send the computers on their mission. For more information, or to inquire about donations, please contact Jacqueline Awa, Mauna Kea Resort controller at 880-3370 or jawa@MaunaKeaResort.net.