it@Cork and IBM donate time and tech to Shine Autism Centre

15 Jun 2011

Some 80 children and more than 250 families in south Munster are to benefit from a new initiative by it@cork and IBM employees in the region who will donate their time and expertise to help boost student literacy and numeric ability.

Working with Shine’s Smarter Senses project, IBM volunteers and experienced practitioners are using IBM’s KidSmart Early Learning Programme to introduce new technology to children at the centre. The KidSmart programme aims to support improvement in student literacy and numeric ability, while helping students to develop their social and communication skills.

“The mission of Shine is to provide support and services to children with autism in our local community in Cork. In the current economic climate, funding sources are limited and it’s our volunteers who make such a valuable contribution to our work here at the centre,” said Kieran McAuliffe of the Shine Centre for Autism, Cork.

“These IBM volunteers know they are part of that community, too, and we are extremely pleased with their valuable contribution to the development of improved outcomes for our children and to help us in moving forward.”

Shine Ireland is a voluntary organisation and registered charity established in 2001 by the parents of children with autism to offer support and provide services for their children.

Shine has grown year on year since then and now offer services and support to 80 children through the Shine Centre based in Carrigaline, Cork, and more than 250 families across the south Munster region.

“In the spirit of societal responsibility first envisioned by IBM founder Thomas Watson, and to commemorate our 100-year anniversary as a corporation, IBMers are giving back to the communities where we work and live,” said Deirdre Kennedy, corporate citizenship and corporate affairs manager, IBM Ireland.

“By partnering with Shine we are able to help make a difference in the lives of the members of the Cork community.”

The Shine Centre is also successful in being awarded an IBM Reading Companion grant, valued at €7,500. Reading Companion is IBM’s web-based literacy program that uses novel speech-recognition technology to help children and adults gain and increase literacy skills. Reading Companion’s innovative software “listens” and provides feedback, enabling emerging readers to practise reading and pronunciation as they learn science.

IBM’s KidSmart programme includes the Young Explorer unit – a computer housed in brightly coloured, child-friendly Little Tikes furniture and equipped with award-winning educational software designed to help children learn and explore concepts in maths, science and language.

The units stimulate natural curiosity, encouraging children to experiment with technology in a ‘play centred’ learning environment.

“it@cork is recognising, enhancing and encouraging the spirit of corporate social responsibility within Ireland,” said Denis Collins, chairman, it@cork.

“As business leaders, it is critical that we take our corporate social responsibilities seriously. The IT industry should be a primary leader in this space and the Smarter Senses Project is a wonderful example of the good things we can do with Shine Ireland – a perfect balance of it@cork, industry leaders and technology making a difference where it is greatly needed,” Collins added.

IBM’s centenary marked by volunteerism across Ireland

IBM is marking the 100-year anniversary of its founding in 1911 with several global initiatives to engage in new ways with business leaders, academia, clients, and local communities in the 170 countries where the company does business.

Today, IBM employees in 120 countries, including Ireland, are joining with more than 5,000 not-for-profit organisations to celebrate the 100th anniversary of IBM’s founding with a ‘Celebration of Service’. The celebration of service precedes the anniversary day of its founding – 16 June, 1911.

In Ireland the volunteering includes:

  • At Camara,an organisation that uses technology to improve education in Africa, a group of 50 IBM Global Services employees and managers will be cleaning down, testing and packaging PCs before they are donated to schools in Africa.
  • At Age Action Ireland, IBMers will assist senior citizens in how to use the internet and mobile technology at their ‘Getting Started – Silver Surfer’ workshops being held in Ballycoolin, Dublin. Country director Peter O’Neill will also participate and present an IBM Catalyst Grant of €7,500 to Age Action Ireland.
  • With the Irish Cancer Society, IBM volunteers will be developing a cloud-based IT application to manage their Care to Drive Programme which provides free transport to patients undergoing treatment.
  • In IBM Blanchardstown, Dublin, the company will host a ‘volunteer marketplace’ for more than 750 employees, bringing together leading Irish not-for-profit-organisations to discuss and initiate skills-based volunteering projects. Some of these projects include volunteering to develop web technologies and database design for these organisations.
  • At Samaritans Galway, IBMers will volunteer to promote the design and implementation of its schools website for students in Galway/Mayo. IBMers will provide technical support; accompany outreach volunteers on awareness visits to schools; assist in planning ongoing support with the web project; provide project management skills/presentation skills and research the solutions/activity kits available.
  • At Bridge21, a programme designed to support the development of an innovative 21st-century learning environment within schools, IBM volunteers will undergo training to act as mentors on its ‘Future Technology Workshops’ with transition-year students in the coming academic year 2011/12.
  • IBMers will also be volunteering their professional services and skills, ranging from how to write a business plan, or develop sales and marketing projects, to creating small business accounting systems with Aware, Scouting Ireland, YMCA, Babtech, Fasttrack IT(FIT), COPE Galway, Fingal CoCo, Conservation Ireland, St Vincent de Paul, The Red Cross and many other not-for-profit Irish organisations.
  • Schools throughout Ireland will also receive news of their success for the IBM Kidsmart programme 2011/12. IBMers will volunteer with their support for this programme over the course of the coming academic year, at their nearest school location.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years