Getting Colombian Kids Excited about Programming


Some years ago, I became involved with a religious community on a social project in the Usminia community, a poor neighborhood of Bogotá. They invited me to help children in the community by teaching remedial classes. In 2015, a new Bayer Senior Representative for the Andean Country Group came in, and one of his first activities was to spend some time with the volunteers of past years and learn about their experiences. The result was a very lively conversation about the value of sharing insights and how to motivate others. It took only a short time to develop a proposal for a project with nine volunteers.

The Usminia children in one of the programming classes, they learn with help of our voluntaries and using Raspberry Pi computer.
The first day of the voluntaries with the Usminia children.

We designed the project with the aim of teaching basic programming using Raspberry Pi computers as an alternative for getting the community’s children involved in science and technology. Usminia is located outside of the city in a depressed neighborhood, where children have limited access to such learning and are exposed to plenty of bad influences around them.

Raspberry PI computer
The voluntaries with religious community in the in Usminia location.

In any social project, there is always "something" that drives a person’s desire to commit to volunteering for a cause. Colombia is a society under development, with many inequality problems that dull children’s aspirations and make them surrender their dreams due to poverty. As an IT team, we decided to “pay it back” and return the privileges we had all enjoyed as professionals, as engineers with technical knowledge employed at Bayer, because computer programming means more than just technical knowledge to us; it means the power to “create structured thinking” for those children.

We think that the biggest challenge is to teach children, without having a teacher’s background.

This challenge is also our biggest incentive, because it is the best return for our time, i.e. seeing the children responding positively and being motivated.

Now our dream includes reaching more children and creating more teaching levels in order to ensure that each child receives the right information according with his/her learning capabilities. To pursue this objective, we are considering buying new devices and including new areas of learning.

Twenty one children are learning programming and thinking in other possibilities different that their environment offers.
David, one of the child of the Usminia location shows his enthusiasm, learning programming.