A simple donation of a used laptop could make a huge difference in the life of an HIV-positive Malawian teenager’s transition to adulthood, helping them cultivate important computer literacy skills that could result in better job opportunities.

A pilot program in the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Malawi Children’s Center of Excellence has already proved successful and is looking to expand within BIPAI’s network of pediatric HIV/AIDS and primary care centers throughout Africa – with the help of donated laptop computers.

“Old laptop computers might not be worth much to some people, but they are invaluable to my kids in Malawi,” said Foster Corrigan, who initiated the computer training program while working in the BIPAI Malawi Teen Club. “These are bright and talented teenagers who have survived into adolescence and now need positive relationships, life skills and peer mentoring.”

Since the Baylor College of Medicine-Abbott Fund Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence-Malawi’s inception on November 2, 2006, there has been a significant reduction of pediatric HIV/AID related deaths, resulting in a new and good problem for BIPAI – children with HIV/AIDS living longer and an increased need for resources to transition them to adulthood. Hence, BIPAI’s Teen Club was established to provide them important social support—by families, peers and adult role models— and to encourage medication adherence, disclosure, proper nutrition and other healthy behaviors.

Corrigan, 19, is currently participating in a gap year at BIPAI’s Malawi clinical center of excellence and saw the need for a computer literacy program while working with the Teen Club.

“Ultimately, the goal of my program is to help these teens have an easier transition to adulthood and job skills,” said Corrigan. “Having computer skills could set them apart from other job applicants and help secure better opportunities.”

To start, Corrigan was able to acquire donated lap top computers with the help of the Houston-based attorneys of the international law firm of Baker & McKenzie LLP. Baylor College of Medicine assisted with clearing of all data off the computers and transportation to Malawi. He initiated a program with about 25 kids.

Corrigan developed a computer literacy curriculum that teaches the teenagers basic computer vocabulary, how to operate a computer and navigate the Internet and provides software classes such as Microsoft office.

The program was very well received, Corrigan said. “I have trained the local translators so that the classes can continue once I leave to attend college.”

Corrigan will enter his freshman year at The University of Texas in Dallas in the fall of 2015, but intends to stay involved to facilitate the expansion of the program to other clinic sites.

He is a 2014 graduate of Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston.

With enough computers, the program can expand to other teen club sites in BIPAI’s network of clinical centers that blanket sub-Saharan Africa and treat more than 200,000 children and families.

"This project is a testament to the power of one,” said Michael Mizwa, chief operating officer of BIPAI. “It exemplifies what one motivated individual can do to effect change for dozens of young people. As a result of this program’s success, we hope to replicate it among other BIPAI centers of excellence.”

To inquire about donating a laptop, contact Dr. Diane Nguyen, BIPAI global health coordinator, at diane.nguyen@bcm.edu.