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Dhan Rai in Nepal
Dhan Rai was a 21 year-old college student in Nepal studying English and mathematics when he moved with his family to North Carolina in 2008. After several generations of living as refugees in Nepal, they were being resettled in the United States.
Rai graduated from automotive school but headed back to the classroom at Wake Tech to study computer programming. He was working full time at the Raleigh-Durham international airport and going to school part-time when he decided he wanted some hands-on experience with Information Technology.
Rai found the WiderNet Project and started volunteering in 2014. He learned about the hardware of computers, how to take them apart and test them, put in new operating systems and KVM switches. He learned more about database servers and connectivity.
Volunteering with the WiderNet Project gave Rai the IT exposure he was looking for, plus an added bonus: the chance to give back. With Cliff Missen’s guidance, he worked on upgrading donated computers and updating their software to give to underprivileged kids in Durham, and helped upgrade the servers at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill.
“We survived in refugee camps because of people who donated,” Rai says, remembering donated school supplies he benefitted from. “It doesn’t feel good but at least you have something—school to go to and something to survive on.” It felt good to finally be the one supporting others.
When Rai told Cliff that he was planning a trip back to Nepal, Cliff mentioned that he was sponsoring a medical student in Kathmandu. Both saw another opportunity to give. Rai practiced installing the eGranary a few times, and headed to Nepal to bring a copy to the medical school.
After a few logistical and communications snafus, Rai finally delivered the eGranary to the school, housed in a large university in the capital. With two terabytes of data, it was an offline resource akin to a full medical library, and a huge asset for a university with slow, patchy Internet.
“They were pretty happy about it,” Rai says. “It’s an amazing device, you have millions of documents (on it).”
The school told Rai they planned to use the EGranary as a server, allowing students to plug into it wirelessly. Rai showed the librarians at the university and the IT administrators how to install it and, after being called back immediately after leaving, how to troubleshoot too.
The trip inspired Rai, who says he’d like to return to Nepal again to install the EGranary in more remote regions of the country. In the meantime, he’ll continue giving back however he can.
“I’m very grateful to work here and have the opportunity to volunteer,” Rai says. “I’ve learned a lot from Cliff and from WiderNet as a whole.”