Cornell vet students send computers and textbooks to counterparts in Afghanistan

A visiting scholar from Afghanistan is taking home not only some new ideas, but also a truckload of much-needed books and computers, thanks to Cornell veterinary students and the Cornell Computer Reuse Association, with an assist from Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Noor Mohamed Ayubi, dean of the veterinary faculty at Kabul University, visited Cornell in March and April as part of an ongoing program by the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) to encourage agricultural development in Afghanistan. Kabul University is still recovering from the devastation wrought by war and regime changes. Ayubi's visit was funded by the Norman Borlaug Fellowship Program, which connects agricultural leaders in developing countries with American land-grant and other universities.

After meeting Ayubi, students in the College of Veterinary Medicine donated textbooks and contacted Cornell's Computer Reuse Association, a student organization led by Pui Yan Chan '09 and Terence Leung '09, whose members repair and refurbish computers no longer being used by university departments and donate them to schools and nonprofit organizations in need. According to Al Heiman, Cornell Information Technologies student employment supervisor and adviser to the Computer Reuse Association, they have donated computers to users in Zambia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, South Africa, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Liberia, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ithaca's own Greater Ithaca Activities Center. Most of the computers so far have come from CIT and the libraries, Heiman said, and all donations are encouraged.

The organization rounded up two dozen computers to send to Kabul. The donated computers will help Kabul vet students with English language training and provide Internet access to allow them to link to large databases on animal disease, including one developed at the Veterinary College. The computers are preloaded with a variety of open-source software.

"Ayubi is truly an administrator who wants to make a difference," said Jon Cheetham, a large-animal surgeon and graduate student at the Vet College. "We e-mailed every final-year student, asking them to donate their textbooks, especially in animal anatomy and sheep and goat disease." Afghanistan's agriculture is very animal-intensive.

But shipping 48 boxes of computers and monitors to Kabul would have cost about $8,000. So Francine Jasper, assistant director of international programs for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and administrator of the Borlaug Fellowship Program, asked Steve Johnson, Cornell vice president for government affairs, to contact Clinton, who has been involved with another CIIFAD project in Afghanistan. Clinton's office is helping to arrange a free shipment either with a commercial carrier or the U.S. Denton program, a military humanitarian enterprise.

"We're very, very grateful," Jasper said. "With students, faculty and staff rolling up their sleeves, this is how we help other nations, and they become allies."


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