We recently interviewed J.T. Buice, the co-founder and CEO of Kainos Technology in Waco, Texas, about a volunteer initiative he led through Restoration Gateway, an orphanage in Uganda that supports over 200 kids from infant to High School. The team of 16 came from various professional and personal backgrounds traveling to the Republic of Uganda in the summer of 2019 to install and terminate 1.3 miles of fiber optic cable, donate 20 laptops and connect the orphanage to an Internet network to enhance the children’s education opportunities. The work also had a positive impact on the local hospital and community by increasing their connectivity.
Blazing the Trail for IT in Uganda
Q: Tell us about how you became aware of the need in Uganda?
“We were approached by Restoration Gateway in 2018 to help with implementing some IT solutions at their headquarters in the states. Our relationship grew from there into inquiring how we may be of assistance to help educate all the kids under their care in Uganda.
They already have programs dedicated to teaching trades in auto maintenance, sewing, brick making, farming, and livestock care, but lacked a stable IT program
They had some 10 year old laptops, a small projector that was too dim to see, and no reliable access for the kids to get on the Internet. They have 800 acres of land with very few cell phones and motorized vehicles to communicate with each other.”
Q: How did you coordinate the effort to get supplies and the needed equipment in Uganda?
“We had a team of workers who were hired to dig 1.3 miles of trench, 30 inches deep, to all the major buildings on site BY HAND as they don’t have access to large machines. I was able to locate some fiber from China and had it shipped in and the workers buried it.
Myself and the team of 16 spent 50 hours traveling to Restoration Gateway as there are no direct flights and the area was very difficult to navigate. We were able to consolidate our clothes and belongings to give us more luggage within our baggage limit to take spools of ethernet, supplies, tools of all kinds, around 20 laptops, network switches and even an IP Phone system!
We had teachers, artists, medical personnel, IT guys and agronomists all on our team who all had jobs to do at RG that would have a great impact.
We spent the next 10 days working with the locals setting up our gear, terminating fiber and were even able to teach some of the kids how to do these things.
After it was all done, we covered all the major buildings with WiFi and were able to provide central internet that is extremely filtered for the kids so they can utilize the Internet to further their education.”
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced and what did your team learn from the process?
“The biggest challenge that we had and continue to have is that their power is mainly solar with a small generator for nights. The switch from solar to generator takes about 30 seconds and causes all our gear to reboot twice daily but we were able to build for this and even with this challenge, the gear has continued to operate well for two years. I had never been to a 3rd world country before so the entire process was a learning experience but everyone we interacted with was so motivated and wanting to learn even in their circumstances.”
The Cost and Impact
Q: How was the work funded and how many hours did it take?
“The team had a fundraiser campaign where $30,000 was donated. Most of this went toward travel as the cost to get there was around $2000 per person. The rest was put towards room and board. I personally spent over 750 hours planning, managing remotely and building out the systems.”
Q. How is the orphanage currently using the technology? What has this allowed the organization (administration) and kids (residents) to do?
“Besides education, it has given the local hospital connectivity so they can access medical information and has added phones in the major locations so people can be more easily tracked down and connected.”
Q: What was the impact of the work done there?
“We maintain the network to this day and it has made a night and day difference for those kids. One of the kids recently sent me some videos of an Egg incubator he built with some Arduino parts we gave them. With good access to the internet now, he was able to teach himself the C++ code needed to build it all! Protein is extremely scarce in Uganda… The incubator has made them more successful at hatching chicks so they will have more protein to eat in the future.”
Testimonials from students
Ogwang Francis, a student at Restoration Gateway, states “…what a joy and simplicity came when the fiber optic cable was installed, we have had very fast internet. With addition of the firewall it became very easy for us to manage our internet. It has helped in studies for teachers to be able to look things up on the internet so they can show their students and not just tell them about it.”
Robert Kizza, a teacher at Restoration Gateway, states, “Each department has a phone and can communicate across our campus to other departments. Instead of individuals using minutes and RG paying for that time. It also saves time, in the past individuals might have to walk around searching for someone. Now, all that we have to do is call to find them, saving our time for what is more important. We are also able to have our printers and scanners connected on one network.”
“Our education has really changed because of the quality of our internet. Before it wasn’t efficient because we had different routers at different buildings, and it was not a good quality really anywhere. Now, we have one large system and it can be accessed in the library and both schools, which really helps the students. With the better internet we can do more research than we used to do, and especially with the new computers.” Patrick, Secondary Student
Restoration Gateway is a Christ-centered community in Uganda that provides loving homes, education, and health-care for over 300 orphans. They give biblical training for church planters, missionaries and local pastors; a health-care training facility to care for and provide ministry to the sick and offer a children’s camp and pastoral retreat center for Ugandan pastors.
Kainos has contributed to opening up the world of technology for the students at Restoration Gateway. If you are interested in learning more about this project, visit Giving — Restoration Gateway (givecloud.co)