By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
What started out as an effort to bring clean drinking water to the people of Haiti more than a decade ago has grown into a mission to educate and employ young people in the tiny Caribbean nation.
Gary Boice created Tek4Kids, a non-profit organization based in Jérémie, Haiti, that incorporates computer technology into classrooms, with the hope that education would help break the cycle of poverty in the impoverished country.
Tek4Kids’ latest education venture — the St. Francis School of Technology -— is a three-year technical school that trains students in networking, server operations, database operations and other areas of study including English. The school’s first class of students graduated last summer.
“Our goal is to provide students with the skills they need to secure a job,” said Boice in a recent interview.
Boice, a 1962 graduate of St. Xavier High School, first traveled to Haiti in 2006 with a group of volunteers from the Cathedral of the Assumption to install water purification systems at St. Louis Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Louisville Cathedral’s sister parish.
When he saw the gravity of the situation in Haiti, he said, he knew he had to do something. Tek4Kids incorporates computer technology in classrooms with seven partner schools in Jérémie. It also purifies 10,000 gallons of water per week. In 2015, Boice expanded that mission to include job training skills at the St. Francis School of Technology.
The costs to educate each student for one year at the post-secondary school totals over $1,000 but Tek4Kids charges just $340. Students learn skills in areas such as website design, programming, desktop support and infographics.
Upon completion, Tek4Kids staff help graduates secure internships in Haiti. And a number are working at a consulting business Boice created. He established Technology-Integrators-Caribbean which is based in Jérémie. The goal behind the company, Boice said, is to hire many of Tek4Kids technology graduates and also to enhance job opportunities in Jérémie. All profits from TIC are donated back to Tek4Kids. TIC specializes in security monitoring, energy monitoring, fleet monitoring and technology consulting. All IT work is done remotely from Jérémie.
The school’s namesake — St. Francis of Assisi — is one that is close to Boice’s heart. He is a lay member of the Secular Franciscan Order, St. Joseph of Cupertino Fraternity at Mt. St. Francis in Southern Indiana.
Boice said the best way he sees to break the cycle of poverty in Haiti is by providing marketable job skills and by working to create more jobs.
While the economy and overall conditions in Haiti have improved some over the last dozen or so years, it’s not at the pace needed to generate significant change. Boice said creating remote IT jobs is an ideal solution for a country that lacks adequate infrastructure.
Boice, 74, has dedicated much of his retirement to developing and growing Tek4Kids in Haiti. He has spent well over 100 weeks in Haiti over the last dozen or so years. He and his wife, Cathy, have been married for 37 years and have seven children and 16 grandchildren.
Helping those in need is not a foreign concept to Boice. He said as a Catholic he was raised to turn his attention to those in need.
“I feel like I’m doing what God is asking me to do. It’s very powerful. No matter what happens, I know I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said.
Boice and his wife have provided about 90 percent of the funds needed to operate Tek4Kids since its founding. Boice said the non-profit is spending more than it’s taking in. “We can do it for a while longer but not forever,” he said.
“What we are doing is working, but we need more funding,” he said. “Every penny that is donated goes straight to Tek4Kids.”
To learn more about Tek4Kids, visit tek4kids.org.