For the past seven years, Emmanuel McBean, facilities attendant in the Dillingham Center at Ithaca College, has collected items, in particular computers and laptops, to donate to schools in the under-resourced area of Region 10 in Linden, Guyana.
Along with help from his family; Alan Heiman, instructional technology specialist at Cornell University; and the Cornell Computer Reuse Association, McBean has been able to donate laptops, computers and televisions among other items to schools in the Region 10 area as well as communities in Brooklyn and Ithaca, N.Y.
Contributing Writer Haley Doran sat down with McBean to talk about his initiative and how it has impacted the lives of those he has helped.
Haley Doran: Tell me about your initiative.
Emmanuel McBean: My family and I have been doing this donation for years. We started small, and then, as we started to do things, ended up getting help in other fields like technology. Alan Heiman and his computer club at Cornell University have been a great help to us … If it wasn’t for him, I would not have been able to donate as many things.
HD: Why did you begin this initiative?
EM: I realized what education was all about now that I am older. I had the opportunity to go to community college, but I left that because I got into a trade as a machinist, which was big money at the time. Now that field is dwindling down, so it is important to know about schooling. At first, I started small, donating pens, pencils and any other things that were given by other families.
HD: What was your inspiration for beginning this initiative?
EM: I was inspired to do this because of the way I was brought up. I was very poor, my father died when I was seven years old, and I had to live with my mom and stepdad. There were a lot of things that did not come my way very easily until I was an older person.
HD: Why did you choose to donate to the area of Linden, Guyana?
EM: This is the area where I was born. I know what the area is like. I target the people that are extremely poor, to help them.
HD: How do you get these donated items?
EM: I get most of them from Heiman and his computer club. There are a few people [at the college] that have been very supportive. We also donate to many centers in the Ithaca area.
HD: How do you transport the donated items to Guyana?
EM: I get the items here and drive them down to Brooklyn. From Brooklyn, I post them to Guyana. I use my funds to mail them, and, when I get there, the schools refund me for the postage.
HD: What are the ages of students who receive these donations?
EM: They range from young kids through high school. The ones in high school benefit more because they are moving on to college and can now learn more about colleges in America. Because of me, they get to know a little bit more about what Ithaca College is about and what Cornell is doing. This information is also spread through the Brooklyn … and Queens area.
HD: Have any of the students your initiative has impacted in the Linden or New York areas enrolled at the college?
EM: Oh, yes. My goal here is to have 15 kids at Ithaca College. So far, I have gotten eight of them. I have encouraged family members to let their child come visit the college. Four kids are from downstate, and the other four are from the Ithaca area.
HD: How do the students react when you visit them with the donations?
EM: We take everything, including clothes, because these kids live in a poor environment and any little thing that you give them makes them so excited.