By Bill Hagen
In January 2012 a fully functional, internet connected, computer lab was set up at WeiPat High school on the island of Onoun in the Namonweito Atoll of Chuuk State, FSM. In a partnership between The Cuthbert Project and Guam Community College, funded by the Department of the Interior this project labeled “WeiPat 2012” is the first of its kind in Micronesia.
A 20 foot shipping container was loaded on Guam with every piece needed to complete the project such as lumber, cement, rebar, windows, doors, a complete electrical system, paints and all necessary tools and accessories. In addition, almost 8,000 lbs of donated books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, school supplies and paper were included in the shipment. This container was then shipped to Weno where it was unloaded and repacked aboard a small chartered motor vessel for shipment to Onoun 120 miles NW of Weno. In Weno a satellite dish and modem were added to the shipment.
After a 26 hour passage to Onoun the contents were off loaded into small outboard motor boats and taken ashore where everything was then hand carried from the beach to WeiPat High School several hundred yards away and then construction began in a leaky and abandon concrete room.
On the first day a temporary internet connect was established and at noon on January 22 the island of Onoun sent its first email. The dish was later installed on a permanent mount on the roof over the computer lab.
In 3 days the students of WeiPat and the residents of Onoun patched the concrete roof, re-plastered the interior, removed concrete walls, installed new windows and doors, installed a new subpanel and circuit breakers, ceiling fans, lights and duplex plugs. The entire interior and exterior were then given a new paint job and the roof was sealed to prevent future leaks. At the end of the third day new tables and chairs were installed, the existing computers, as well as the new computers were set up, plugged in and turned on. The island has a large photovoltaic array set up by the European Union in 2008 so power is not a problem.
On the first night a screen was set up and using a digital projector and sound system provided by the project, the children of Onoun were treated to a movie entitled “Midnight at the Smithsonian.” They were enthralled.
The Cuthbert Project has been operational at WeiPat High School since 2009 but with limited resources so, most of the 200 students have had limited access to computers. Now with 28 new computers to be added to the existing equipment the lab can accommodate 35 students per hour or 280 student hours per day.
The motor vessel, after off-loading at Onoun, continued on to the other 4 islands in the Namonuitoes, which have elementary schools, to deliver the balance of the donated school supplies. These islands are Magur, Ono, Onori and Piserach.
Operating in the outer-islands of Micronesia is difficult. Communication is by short wave or satellite phone, there is no regular boat service to or from anywhere and on a project like WeiPat 2012 everything must be included in the shipment. If you don’t bring it, you won’t fine it out there.
The Cuthbert Project was founded to give the kids in the outer-islands a chance, which they do not now have, to good education. There are some good minds out there and they will be lost without an opportunity to learn.