Obtaining sufficient access to computer technology and information on how it could best serve students with disabilities was the challenge that originally led Yvette Marrin and David Bruce McMahan to co-found the National Cristina Foundation in 1984. This began the work of putting used computers back to work again for developing human potential. The Foundation was named in honor of Cristina McMahan who had met Yvette Marrin when she was a student in the Yonkers Public Schools.
As pioneers in addressing a hitherto ignored concept, we understood that we could confirm the positive potential of such technology over time and knew that society’s solutions would have to be created to deal with an ever increasing stockpile of discarded equipment. We had to look into the future knowing we would be continually constructing fresh infrastructures.
How could we best accomplish this?
Establishing the National Cristina Foundation donation program involved considerable pilot testing for more than ten years, and test driving numerous procedures with many different sites. We initially picked partner groups, such as the Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland State Department of Education, Peabody University, New York University’s Upward Bound program, various rehabilitation centers, and numerous nonprofits who were very proficient at using newer technology and could properly evaluate whether previously used equipment could also serve their programs. They helped us verify key procedures to be followed for administering our donation program.
Part of our task needed to establish the usefulness of such technology with reference to technology training, communication, and general support for assisting individuals with special needs to lead more independent and productive lives. It would take perseverance and time before the larger society would see such technology reuse as beneficial, practical and necessary. Thus, it was essential that our practices needed to be tested as logical and easy to scale up.
Along the way, by 1997, we also formally confirmed the Cristina Reuse System’s model that was validated through a grant from the U. S. Department of Commerce. This process tested the donation system we had developed with a number of sites in different parts of our nation and verified practices with colleagues engaged in technology reuse activities. Our close relationship with CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association) has further assisted the Foundation to gain a good understanding about the computing industry and the complexities of this important sector of our economy.
What we have learned since our founding, is now integrated into the donation management software that supports non profit organizations, schools, and public agencies’ reuse activities as partners in the Cristina Network. It matches technology donations to recipient locations by tracking their programs as well as their equipment requirements. This system enables an increasing stream of technology donations to be matched to an ever growing number of partner sites throughout our nation.
The lessons learned over time have taught us that for donations of earlier generation computer and related technology to make a significant difference you need a coordinated and clearly focused program. Proper and systematic planning and coordination is essential. And always for the National Cristina Foundation, our guiding objective keeps our work true—Linking Life to its Promise.