A New Life

Here is a blog for the season, and the end-of-the year....

While at LinuxCon, Brazil I met Leonard Wadewitz, the CompTIA Business Development Manager for Latin America.

While most pLinux+ Powered by LPIeople know CompTIA for its certification program, it is actually a non-profit association of computer vendors stressing the education, certification and development of IT channels. Its members are not individuals, but businesses (although a business of one person could also be a member), educational organizations, non-profits and other professional organizations.

CompTIA offers its members training and resources in areas such as industry research, business tools, networking opportunities with other IT channel partners, and (of course) certifications. CompTIA is a partner of LPI in various countries, using LPI's tests for their “CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI” exams, allowing people who obtain their certification to also receive the LPIC-I certification: a win-win for everyone.

After meeting Mr. Wadewitz and exchanging business cards, I would receive the occasional email from him regarding CompTIA's activities.

Then I received an email from him that (once again) made me see the goodness of the human spirit and what it can do.

Grenada is an island in the Caribbean Sea. Known for its spice production and exports, it was most recently in world news due to two huge hurricanes that devastated the island in 2004 and 2005. Grenada has (for the most part) recovered from those hurricanes, but need for reconstruction continues.

As in a lot of places, poverty often breeds crime, and young people without jobs sometimes get into trouble. However, instead of just thrusting first-time offenders into jail, an organization called “The New Life Organization” (NEWLO) helps “at-risk” youth from ages 18-23 to obtain the training they need to begin a career. The alternative would be jail.

Not all the NEWLO training is in the IT space. Some young people opt for child-care, or construction skills such as plumbing or masonry. However all of the students have to take a fourteen week Adolescent Development Program to teach them life and literacy skills such as public speaking and how to interact in a work situation: things which these students may never have encountered, but are very useful in the tourism industry (which is a big part of Grenada's economy).

And in IT not only do you need systems administration skills, but you often need skills in entrepreneurship and business channel development.

With an operating budget of only $235,000 a year, partially funded by the Trust for the America's Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas (POETA), it is difficult for NEWLO to pay for full-time instructors. Often former students of NEWLO who have succeeded in their jobs come back to volunteer time or give cash donations to help bolster the school.

Setting up a new IT department at the school took a lot more focus, however. So Seldon Walker, a web designer and part-time undergraduate distance-learning student at the University of Wales volunteered to help create a program based around CompTIA curriculum to create an IT Department at the school.

Seldon has been working at building the curriculum for five years, and is looking forward to finishing his degree full time next year. He hopes by that time the program will be self-sustaining.

After Seldon completes his degree, he wants to go back to Grenada and start an IT business. Seldon believes that IT businesses have a chance in helping Grenada's economy, but only if there are enough well-trained people to meet the demand. Programs like NEWLO can help with that training.

Part of NEWLO's needs to become self-sustaining are for the NEWLO school at St. George to pay off the $10,000 that they owe for the purchase of new computer equipment. I think that helping NEWLO to better understand the economic issues around Free and Open Source Software would be another area for “self-sustaining”.

Programs like CompTIA, although they do not focus completely on Free and Open Source Software, do help generate an ever-expanding IT market which FOSS can then fill with low-cost, high-value solutions. And when CompTIA is successful at delivering an LPI “Powered” test, to certify another Free Software person, it helps Free Software directly.

Happy Holidays to everyone, and may the new year be full of happiness for you.