Students cross borders to help those in need

James McBryan and Mico Llanos work on the system in Honduras (Israel Lopez/LARIAT CONTRIBOTOR)

Kayla Sallee

The world is becoming closer and closer with the rise in Internet access. However there are some countries that still do not have much needed access necessary to move forward in the 21st century.  One Saddleback College student is determined to change that.

Israel Lopez, 21, international business, not only fixes technology around the world – he teaches natives how to operate and repair the tech as well.
Lopez, a San Clemente native, has been working with Engineers Without Borders since 2008 and will return to Honduras over spring break to continue his work with the team.

Engineers Without Borders is a non profit organization established in 2002 to help developing nations worldwide with engineering needs – while training the next generation to be internationally responsible students.
EWB projects involve design and construction including waste, water, sanitation and energy systems. All of these projects place an emphasis on education.

Lopez works with the Orange County Business Professionals Chapter of EWB which was founded in 2007. The chapter has three “project communities” in El Salvador, Kenya and Honduras.

According to an EWB document, “the Honduras project at its current state is a wireless infrastructure project for a network of three schools in the community of Juticalpa, Olancho, Honduras.”

“We hope to provide them a robust network that allows them to collaborate internally as a school system, and communicate externally to new found contacts through the internet.”

The team has a total of 12 members and Lopez is the only participant who attends Saddleback College.

“I should be finished with Saddleback this semester and plan to transfer to any school near the bay area,” Lopez said.
Lopez has always had an interest in technology. Before even hearing about the projects he worked as an IT guy at Spy Optics. He also owns tow technology businesses – Sandbox IT and FishBooks Pro.

“Back in Oct. 2008, another student at Saddleback invited me to a charity dinner,” Lopez said. “After the event I became interested and looked up the team online.”

After doing research Lopez became involved with the charity and he is currently the technology lead for the team traveling to Honduras in March. This is Lopez’s second trip to the country.

On his first trip to Juticalpa, Lopez had experiences very different to the traditional “Orange County lifestyle”.

“It taught me that there is a lot more to be done in third world countries,” Lopez said. “Life moves slowly down there, while the rest of the world is moving fast.”

On the trip, members of the group met with Honduran residents and learned about the needs of the community. They also visited a local university and gave a lecture to 16 students about open-source software and Linux.
Lopez and the rest of his team fundraise money to off set the travel costs for the trips and pay for their own airfare.

“We also get other donations from friends, corporate solicitations, and local fundraisers such as café and music events in San Fransisco,” Lopez said.

From March 13 through March 31, Lopez and his team plan to continue their efforts of bringing Honduras up to speed.

“Our goal is to implement a robust wireless network for a local non-government organization (NGO) that runs three schools for the Juticalpa community,” Lopez said.

The team also plans to upgrade educational software in the classrooms, while teaching local university students advanced Linux/Wireless networking.

“There are a total of nine locations we have to get to, but the town of Juticalpa is only 8 by 8 miles so we should be able to hit each one,” Lopez said.

During the trip they will be posting videos and updates through twitter, the account is EWBOC.


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