A quiet sadness lurks behind Ivonne Barrios’ deep brown eyes. She possesses a solemn maturity beyond her 21 years of age—characteristic of someone who has had an incredibly tough life. However, Ivonne doesn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself. She doesn’t complain. She simply wakes up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, irons her clothes, prepares her breakfast, and walks 45 minutes to school at Escuela de Hogar in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Ivonne Barrios at a computer in Guatemala

When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Ivonne gives a wry smile. “Happy,” she chuckles.

Her dream is to become a doctor, to better understand the mysterious ailments that took her parents’ lives when she was only seven years old. But, ever the pragmatist, Ivonne realizes that she can’t afford to pursue a medical degree and that teaching is her next best option.

Ivonne’s dark eyes sparkle briefly when talk turns to her school’s newly installed Cooperative for Education (CoEd) Computer Center. She states, “We receive so many benefits from the technology. As teachers, we have to make a daily plan using a computer. I don’t have a computer at home and it is really hard for me to afford going to an internet café every day. The CoEd fees aren’t too expensive and we learn so many new things from the classes.” Ivonne is referring to the small fee students pay into the revolving fund, a sustainable system to cover operating expenses and technology upgrades at the center.

El Hogar Computer Center, Quetzaltenango

Other students await instructions from the computer teacher as the day’s class begins.

The opportunity to use technology in the classroom is not something Ivonne takes for granted. At 21, she is one of the oldest students at Escuela de Hogar, which serves as both middle school and high school for the community. This arrangement allows older students like Ivonne to take advantage of the Computer Center. She is constantly impressed with the computers’ efficiency, exclaiming, “Everything used to be done by hand and took us hours. Now we use a special program and it takes less than half the time!”

The fact that Ivonne is studying at all is remarkable. After her parents died, Ivonne left school to work as a housekeeper; she earned enough money to pay for her younger brother’s education. “It was really hard for me because I really enjoyed going to classes,” she remarks. Luckily, when she was 12, her grandparents started to support her and her brother, and she was able to resume her studies, going to work only on the weekends.

Ivonne is honored to be among the small number of teachers who know how to use computers, stating, “I feel like I finally have an opportunity in life.” When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Ivonne gives a wry smile. “Happy,” she chuckles, before adding, “I want to live in peace, not scraping by day-to-day. Every time a family member feels sick, I’m afraid they will die. I want to become a doctor to understand a little bit more of what happened to my parents. At the very least, I want to be able to work and support my family.”

Funders who help make the Computer Lab possible

Some of the funders who help make CoEd Computer Centers possible include The New Opportunities Foundation, The Dewan Foundation, and Rotary International Clubs.

The tools Ivonne now possesses—thanks to CoEd supporters like you—along with her quiet determination, have set her on a path to achieve even her loftiest goals. The sadness in Ivonne’s eyes has finally vanished, replaced by a hopeful glow. She now realizes her opportunities are endless, and she is ready for whatever the future has in store.

What are your favorite uses of technology?