Group donates computers to families in Richmond

March 31, 2011 5:28:40 AM PDT
Internet access is spreading in one of the Bay Area's toughest neighborhoods. A program is handing out computers to some families there to improve education and health and reduce violence.

Quietly over the past year, Wi-Fi antennas have been popping up on some rooftops in Richmond's infamous Iron Triangle.

"In order for this to work well, we have to have about three antennas in close proximity, so we can give residents a good usable signal," said Luis Perez of Building Blocks for Kids.

Luis Perez works for the local non-profit Building Blocks for Kids. The project is funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund, which is a nonprofit. The organization is giving internet capable, refurbished computers to select Iron Triangle families. The Wi-Fi is to provide internet access to those who can't afford it.

"The Iron Triangle was selected because of the challenges that community faces. We're talking low academic test scores; we're talking challenges in health; we're also talking about issues of generational violence," said Perez.

Generational violence helped make Richmond the ninth most dangerous city in America in a 2007 survey. Twenty percent of the residents live below the poverty line -- that's double the national average. Building Blocks for Kids figures that showing people the world online can help break the cycle of poverty and violence.

"We feel that by connecting them to broadband we can connect them to outside education -- resources in their community and broadband will be helpful to them in supporting their children's education," said Perez.

"It's a good resource to look for jobs. Even for raising my daughter right now - it's a good thing to look up parenting advice," said Abigail Flores who received a computer.

The program comes with 10 hours training on the computer and the internet -- not just mechanics, but where to go and where not to and how to protect children from malicious websites. They've helped hundreds of families so far, and they plan to help hundreds more.

"Our goal was to provide training to 1,000 families. Again we've done about 500 -- we're about halfway there," said Perez.

Building Blocks for Kids is asking for donations of Wi-Fi ready computers and monitors.


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