We begin a new year by reflecting on what keeps us moving forward – stories that embody connecting the unconnected and how the Internet makes what was once impossible possible. Connectivity is what makes one Maine math teacher a hero, what finds a young Welsh girl a bone marrow match and what miraculously reunites a family long-separated between Madhya Pradesh, India and Tasmania, Australia.
Here are their stories:
● All students have teachers that stand out in their minds as ones that truly changed their lives. With the help the Maine Technology Learning Initiative, math teacher Alex Briasco-Brin can reach students far beyond the ones in his Freeport Middle School classroom. The decade-old Initiative was the nation’s first to offer every middle school student in the state a laptop for class work. Briasco-Brin wrote algebra programs and problems with the software included on each student’s brand-new Apple laptop, which allowed them to learn at their own pace and collaborate better, rocketing their math test scores up one letter grade on average.
His online lessons and modules were so successful that he was granted a sabbatical year to develop a statewide algebra curriculum that would be part of the set of applications that come standard on the student MacBook.” Most impressive are Briasco-Brin’s reviews from his students – “It’s definitely a lot easier to understand everything, and I feel that I’m learning a lot more,” said one, while another enthused, “It’s definitely the best math class I’ve ever had.”
● While some poured ice water over their heads for the ALS Association, others wore underwear up top to help Hollie Clark, an eight-year-old diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome, find a bone marrow donor. The #PantsOnYourHead campaign encouraged people to do two things: post selfies of themselves with underwear on their head, an idea sparked by Hollie’s uncle, who did just that to make Hollie laugh as she recovered from a series of blood transfusions, and register at the Anthony Nolan trust, the UK’s blood cancer charity and bone marrow register. Word spread quickly over Twitter, increasing marrow registrations in Wales by 2,850 percent and finding Hollie a donor in three months.
Sadly, Hollie passed of complications four months after her transplant, but the campaign continues to bring hope to the 2,000 people in the UK who need a marrow transplant annual
● The story that still gives us goose bumps is that of Saroo Brierley, an Indian man who found his family in India after years of painstaking searching on Google Earth. Nearly 30 years ago, Saroo was separated from his older brother, Guddu, when he boarded a train that he was convinced Guddu was on. The train took him hundreds of miles from home to Calcutta where he wound up in an orphanage, eventually to be adopted by the Brierley family in Hobart, Tasmania.
As an adult, Saroo matched the map in his head – his photographic memories of his hometown’s landmarks – to images he zoomed into through Google Earth. He found the house he was born in and instinctively knew his mother when he saw her sitting with two other ladies around the corner from his childhood home: It was a needle in a haystack, but the needle was there … Everything we have in the world is at the tap of a button. But you have to have the will and the determination to want it.”
The heart-warming stories above, as well as our own from school districts in Papua New Guinea and a Nepali entrepreneur who has connected 175 remote villages in his home country so far, spur on our mission of bringing broadband to where it’s most difficult and most needed. If you have a story of connecting the unconnected you’d like to share, feel free to tell us on our community forum or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.