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UA Little Rock community comes together to provide computers for families in need

A mother who received a computer donated from UA Little Rock employees and students.
A mother who received a computer donated from UA Little Rock employees and students.

Many families have felt the strain of teaching their children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but can you imagine trying to homeschool your children without a computer? 

One single mother in Little Rock facing that problem reached out to Mamas Unidas LR, a nonprofit organization that empowers Hispanic parents to help their kids succeed in school and go to college. Since the pandemic began, Mamas Unidas LR has worked to meet the basic needs of the Hispanic community in southwest Little Rock by distributing hundreds of lunches and food boxes for families.

“Some of those families shared with us their need for a computer so that the kids could do homework,” said Sandra Carmona Jobe, program coordinator at TRIO Programs at UA Little Rock and a volunteer with Mamas Unidas LR. “I reached out to the Trojan community to see if anyone might have a solution.”  

The inquiry brought a wide range of responses from faculty, staff, and students at UA Little Rock. Some offered computers, tablets, and donations, while many just wanted to know how they could be of help to a family in need.

One of the respondents, Kristin Dutcher Mann, a professor of history, donated her family’s old iMac to the cause. Although Mann’s family occasionally used it to surf the web and play music, she thought the computer would be of more use to the new family.

“I saw Sandra’s notice on the classifieds list, and we thought the computer would be helpful for this family,” Mann said. “We have sons at home who have been doing online coursework, and I can’t imagine trying to finish up school without a computer. We’re glad it has a new home.”

More than one family in need will receive a computer, since Carmona Jobe also received a second computer donation from the university’s student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

“The ACM Student Chapter of UA Little Rock was grateful for the opportunity to assist an area family in this time of recommended isolation by donating a computer,” ACM Vice President Gaige Ehrenworth said. “We are acutely aware of how important digital resources are in this time of social distancing and working from home.”

ACM President Denver Ellis said that the organization has been working on ways to become more involved in serving the community over the past year, and donating a computer was a great way to do that.

“More than ever, education is going to be delivered virtually and the chapter was happy to assist one family to stay engaged,” Ellis said. “It is part of the mission of the ACM Student Chapter to promote technical excellence and to do so throughout the communities we serve. We only wish we had the resources to meet more of our community’s needs for computing resources.”

The single mother who made the original request for a computer was thankful for the gift. 

“My family and I are very thankful to the person that donated the computer, because it has become very useful and essential to my kids’ ability to do their homework during this pandemic,” she said. 

Carmona Jobe said that both families who received the computers are grateful for the help and the ability to provide a better at-home education for their children.

“The UA Little Rock community has never failed me when I need help for the community,” Carmona Jobe said. “I had individuals posting the information on other pages and reaching out to friends to help a stranger. I wanted to especially thank Mrs. Kristin Dutcher Mann and the Association for Computing Machinery for each donating a computer. We were able to assist two families with a computer, and they were very thankful for that.”

Mamas Unidas also started an advocacy program, Unidos Se Puede, where college students are volunteering with families in the community and serving as advocates, tutors, and translators for the families.