In Brazil, IBM volunteer helps develop IT skills in others

Story of service • Brazil • July 2013

Joaquim Mattos has used his
professional expertise, or eminence
as it is sometimes called, to create
and lead an IT course for at-risk
adults in Brazil, helping them
acquire new skills to land a job
or start a career.
General wear and tear of computers and office equipment is inevitable—so is trying to stretch the useful life of a laptop or desktop to avoid the expense of buying something new. It’s usually just a matter of time before someone needs to be called to repair a computer.

Seeing an opportunity, Joaquim Mattos, a certified solutions architect for IBM in Hortolandia, Brazil created a course to train at-risk individuals to service hardware and perform network setup, helping them to learn the skills that could land them a job or launch a career. A friend introduced Joaquim, or Joca as he’s known, to a not-for-profit organization called Fundação Orsa (FO), which supports local development and income generation projects for communities in Brazil.

“I met with FO’s national coordinator, Tiago Ghion, and, after a few visits, I realized how serious they are,” says Joca. “They require a commitment from every individual they help, and have metrics to evaluate everyone’s personal objective to become self-sufficient, to earn a living. This was enough to trigger my willingness to help and participate.”

Lives changed forever--giving to help others achieve

In 2008, Joca had previously volunteered at another not-for-profit that was looking for help with “techie stuff,” such as formatting hard drives and installing software. However, he quickly learned that IBM was already there sponsoring a program to train teenagers in technology. “I jumped in, and worked with them for almost a year,” says Joca. “Fifteen people finished the training and three were hired by IBM as apprentices—their lives were changed forever.”

It was that experience that Joca remembered when he walked into Fundação Orsa. FO has locations throughout Brazil and each center caters to some aspect of the community they serve. Joca volunteered at a location in Campinas, whose programs centered on developing seamstress skills and producing industrial clothes. “When I showed up to volunteer at FO, I knew their focus was in pattern-making and sewing,” says Joca. “But I proposed an Information Technology curriculum as an additional option for their members.”

“While FO liked the idea of an IT curriculum for adults, there was no budget,” he continues. Not to be deterred, Joca reached into his own pocket to finance the project. “I bought most of the stuff to create a simple ‘Computer Maintenance and LAN setup’ course, including desktop and notebook machines, computer memory, screw drivers and cables.”

Regarding the expense to get the course started, Joca says, “I chose to take personal leadership of this project, so it was fine. I was lucky to have the money and time for my education, but how many people would do even better if they had the same opportunity? That's why I feel great giving to help others achieve.”

By the middle of 2012, Joca had developed the outline and content for a 60 hour course, and started teaching in the evenings. FO selected students based on factors such as low income, low education and the need to work to generate income. Of the fifteen students who started the course, 11 scored well enough to receive their certifications. During the certification ceremony, FO’s national director formally recognized Joca’s and IBM’s contributions to the success of the program.

Professional eminence and personal leadership for public good

The success of Joca’s IT course at FO has opened the door for other technology partners to contribute. Fundação Orsa’s development lead was able to leverage Joca’s course to get participation from Cisco and from SENAI, which is an industry organization specializing in technical training. Also, with help from Ana Figueiredo on IBM’s Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs team in Brazil, FO was awarded additional hardware to improve the course, as well as a substantial grant to equip other classrooms.

Continuing to lean on his professional expertise, Joca has already spent many hours planning a follow-up to his initial course to include instruction in programming languages and IBM’s database product—valuable skills to someone looking to improve their life situation. Employer job surveys consistently place computer and technical skills high on the list of the most valuable skills they seek in potential employees.

“The objective is to help people become independent from government assistance and generate personal income,” says Joca. “My hope is that these efforts will give at-risk people some knowledge and motivation to start their own small business or the skills to work for another company. I believe it’s not possible for everyone to be happy and free when there is poverty. This community work is vital for everyone's growth.”

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