Jan 30, 2012 • By

Laptops help Rwanda realize its dreams

Tears flowed from a young boy’s eyes in a school near Kigali, Rwanda, when I read him a short note that had been placed into a backpack full of school supplies.

To me, it was a thoughtful postcard from a child in Minnesota. But to the Rwandan boy, it represented so much more.

The backpacks I helped bring to his school that day had some very simple things: A pencil, a sharpener, a little notebook, a pack of gum and more. But of all the items inside, the notes were the things the children held onto the most and made them smile from ear to ear. Or cry.

It was just so powerful for this one particular boy, that somebody took the time to write a note just for him. I won’t forget it.

I was fortunate to be part of a team from our Betty Crocker Fruit Flavored Snacks unit on a recent trip to Rwanda to personally deliver hundreds of backpacks, as well as XO laptops – self-powered computers that are preloaded with special content.

It was part of our “Win & Give” campaign, coordinated with One Laptop per Child, a nonprofit organization that provides educational opportunities and XO laptops to the world’s poorest children.

We brought backpacks to the schools that had received laptops in the past. And, we were able to experience giving children in some other cities a computer for the first time.

One village, about an hour from Kigali, held a ceremony where they did all sorts of dances and singing before we handed out their laptops. You can see video of that on WinOneGiveOne.com.

I’m told they would have held that ceremony even if we wouldn’t have been there to personally deliver their computers. It was a great moment for the community and the school. The kids were so excited.

The trip showed me that no matter where you go in the world, at some level kids are just kids. The common thread is that there’s just so much opportunity. You can look into the eyes of a six-year-old in the U.S., Asia or Africa, and they all have that optimism and zest for life and pure potential.

To see that in Rwanda firsthand, and recognize that we legitimately are giving children there something that can help them realize their goals, their passions, and their dreams, is amazing. It’s a real opportunity for these kids, who still face daunting challenges in their country, to give them one more leg up and one more chance to realize their full potential.

Education has long been a cornerstone of our business, so our work with One Laptop per Child is only natural. What better way to help underserved and underprivileged kids around the world get access to information and knowledge.

Editor’s note: To participate in the “Win & Give” campaign, now through March 2012, grocery shoppers should look for specially marked Betty Crocker Fruit Flavored Snack packages in stores. Each specially marked package contains a code that consumers can enter at WinOneGiveOne.com to see if they’ve won an XO laptop.

For every child that wins in the U.S., Betty Crocker Fruit Flavored Snacks, in partnership with One Laptop per Child, will donate a laptop to a child in Africa. Additionally, every code that is entered at WinOneGiveOne.com will help donate additional laptops to kids in Africa.