Family Vacation Inspires Donation
by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF
January 19, 2010
Ari Ioannides, president of Emerald Data Solutions™, Inc., a technology company based in Park City, recently helped Kenyan schools improve computer literacy after being impressed during a vacation.
His daughter suggested an African safari for a family trip. They had several options, but decided to visit Campi ya Kanzi, a "community eco-lodge" run by Luca and Antonella Belpietro, founders of Kenya's Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.
The trust works to conserve the environment and wildlife in East Africa by making them a valuable resource to the people there. That's an easy sell to the Maasai people, a Kenyan tribe that preserves many of their traditional customs.
In addition to being impressed with Luca Belpietro himself, Ioannides said he was moved by the thirst for knowledge demonstrated by the children in the trust's schools.
Emerald Data Solution's primary offering, BoardDocs, helps school districts around the country conduct meetings with openness and without paper. Because of his business, and as a father and a Parkite, Ioannides said he's a big supporter of Park City schools.
But with all of the best facilities and resources this state has to offer, Park City students still act like normal kids and don't always take education seriously.
In contrast, the Kenyan students he observed were in the most basic surroundings but were committed to being there.
"The kids in the schools wanted to learn so much," he said. "The way they focused on the teacher, the way they behaved - they had a thirst for knowledge."
Ioannides realized he was in a unique position to supply the school with some computers. But Internet access in that part of Kenya is so rudimentary that the tiresome dial-up would be a challenge. Without Internet, what good would computers be? So he found educational software that will provide all the resources they'll need.
"I spoke with Dell and found a computer that would work in that harsh (environment). We paid for them, found the software and got it donated," he said. "We worked with Kenyans to help pick it (the computers) up - this place is remote. UPS doesn't drive a truck up there."
The high school now has four or five computers for their library and a small elementary school with a little over a dozen students got computers for each pupil.
And in harmony with the mission of the trust, the gift improves education in the reserve without imposing Western culture upon the Maasai, he said.
Giving locally and globally has become an important part of what his company does, Ioannides said. Because they help governments save money the company has seen 50 percent growth over the past year.
"Therefore we should increase the amount of money we allocate for charitable causes," he said.