“Wherever we are, we can make a difference…if each of us did a bit collectively…Nobody starts right from the beginning by tackling the big issues. We all start at some level and move on.” —Kofi Annan
One “tweet” changed the life of Alberto Matus, “either by total chance or by destiny’s route,” as he puts it. He was, however, completely ready for the moment when it came.
Working in an automotive garage since he was ten, he managed to get an education with the help of a scholarship, earning an Associate’s Degree in network administration and hardware from Sacred Heart College. Not only had he maximized his own resources, he’d used his new knowledge of information and communication technologies (ICT) to give back to children still struggling to get a basic education.
A former professor had initiated a project whose main aim was to connect the primary schools in rural areas to the web in order to bridge the gap between education and ICT. The team salvaged old equipment, achieved wireless internet connection through CDMA routers, and set up network computer labs, which evolved into Belize Primary Wireless Web Labs. Once a school had at least five networked devices, their ISP donated internet service. Alberto is excited about the OER movement, Open Educational Resources, which provides free current curricula and interactive programs, allowing students to learn at their own pace. Temporary funding enabled additional equipment and power sources through solar panels. The Web Labs had significantly helped over 5000 students in fifteen schools when Alberto decided to try a new system called Twitter.
He did a quick search on Belize and one of the first things to come up was One Young World, seeking young people working toward solutions to pressing issues. He tweeted them and soon applied. They liked the outreach of the Web Lab project and selected him to participate in the 2012 One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh. For Alberto, the experience was like a thrill ride into a future of limitless possibilities.
Co-founded by David Jones, former CEO of Havas and Havas Worldwide, One Young World’s summit assembled 1300 delegates from 183 countries, second only to the Olympics in its draw of young international representatives. Jones believes that there is no force better at changing people’s behavior than the power of advertising, and his aim is to convince Havas clients and others in the corporate world to begin addressing world issues responsibly. He sees young ideas as a powerful engine of progress. “We were the revolutionary minds to break the old system,” Alberto says. Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and Jamie Oliver of TV’s Food Revolution gave inspiring speeches. Alberto had lunch with Barclay’s CEO Anthony Jenkins and sat down with “our counselor,” as he refers to CEO Pete Cashmore of Mashable, a news and media blog. Alberto was chosen to speak at the summit’s plenary for education, inspiring an audience of a thousand with his Web Lab work. The adventure didn’t end with the summit event either. He had met Milenko Pilic from Bosnia and Herzegovina who was launching HeySuccess.com, which led to Alberto’s attending Global Startup Youth in Malaysia, the World Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka, and our own HSI. Additionally, he was recently invited, along with eight ambassadors to One Young World, to participate in The Kofi Annan Dialogues: Live, an interactive forum with the brilliant Mr. Annan, conducted via Google Hangout, a powerful video conferencing platform.
At HSI, Alberto, a young many of many industries, introduced his latest project, Travel Venture, and won startup funding. He’d taken a class in ecotourism and concluded that with Belize having the “largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, pristine waters, lush jungles, ancient caves, and historic Mayan ruins,” he could launch a travel business. Partnered with Sacred Heart College, Belize Tourism, and others, Alberto aims to employ college students and apply profits toward scholarships. His educational and sustainable ecotourism offers “socially just and spiritually fulfilling” tours and travel services. Networking to sustainably help others is Alberto’s motto.