Consular Development Day in Santo Domingo

Yesterday I took part in Consular Development Day here in sunny Santo Domingo. I’ll let the official description take precedence here:

During Santo Domingo’s most recent Consular Development Day, a group of computer savvy volunteers ventured over the bridge to the East Side of the Ozama River to lend the HHS Foundation a helping hand. The HHS Foundation, whose slogan is “Helping Children Realize Their Dreams”, is a non-profit organization started in 1998. Recently, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg was introduced to the Foundation and decided to donate dozens of computers, monitors, and peripherals to the foundation’s new library to help it fulfill its slogan. They just needed a little help getting things set up. After a bit of trial and error, our volunteers managed to connect seven computers and successfully get them hooked up to the internet. These new computers, once used in billions of dollars of business transactions, will now be used to aid the HHS Foundation realize its mission of “helping children successfully complete their formal education… this will help reduce the number of school dropouts, child labor, and the sexual exploitation of children.” Just another example of Santo Domingo Consular team’s efforts to help the people of the Dominican Republic in ways other than the traditional visa services it offers on a daily basis.

That said, we arrived at the HHS Foundation’s site ready for anything. We got a little of everything. These computers, you see, were the old Bloomberg Windows 2000 systems, so all were a little dated. There was a pile of boxes containing computers waiting to be unpacked, inspected, set up, and connected. Of the 7 of us there, 3 of us were tech-savvy. We quickly got to work unpacking and seeing what to expect. Most of these machines were Pentium III (so, basically sub-1 GHz processors), 512 MB of RAM, and 20 or 40 GB HDDs. No idea if they were working or not, so it was time to crack them open to see if they were intact:

"Holy crap, this thing's old. Is that a dead mouse where the hard drive should be?"

Most of them were, some were not. Time to see if they would boot up. We literally had no idea what to expect. Only thing to do was to wire them up and fire them up and hope for the best. Note my Project Manager demeanor in the next picture (i.e. “I’m sweating a lot and wearing my geek garb, do what I say.”):

That thingamajig goes into the whosiwhatsy in that whatchamacallit over there."

(Sidebar: Also note that everyone has business casual attire on in these pictures except me. One of the nice things about not officially working for the embassy is not caring what I look like. If there was a better close-up of me, you’d also see that I hadn’t shaved in like 6 days. Daily attire is flip-flops, cargo shorts, short-sleeved shirt, baseball cap, bitchin’ shades: Ahh, being Mr. Mom in a tropical climate.)

Needless to say, we got our collective crap together, found 7 working machines and corresponding monitors together, set up a switch, networked all the PCs, and connected each of them to the Internet. Now, there are roughly 25-30 more kids in Santo Domingo Este who have access to the Internet, and hopefully, a chance to get out of the ghetto.

Good deeds? Check.