Warren McGuffin: ‘Giving away fishing poles’
United Methodist Communications will host the Game Changers Summit Sept. 3-5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference will demonstrate how information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to improve all facets of life. The focus? Helping parts of the world left behind by the technological revolution, to solve problems in education, wellness and community development with cutting-edge communications tools. This article series will spotlight some of the speakers and panelists participating in the Game Changers Summit.
Warren McGuffin’s mission work has always been faith-building, but at some point he realized something was missing: meeting the people he was helping.
In numerous United Methodist Volunteer in Mission trips to reconstruct after Hurricanes Ike and Katrina, McGuffin noticed that while he was rebuilding houses, the homeowners had to be back at their jobs. He missed the interaction of working side by side with those affected.
That all changed in 2010 on a trip to Thomas, Haiti. McGuffin’s team was assigned to build a school, but was quickly confronted with children so hungry they were eating mud pies.
“We gathered our funds and fed these children but we knew the children would still be hungry when we got home,” McGuffin said.
When he returned in June 2011, he brought a master gardener and funds to start a kitchen, which grew into a meal program that now provides 200 meals a day at two schools.
McGuffin’s team decided to move beyond the food program and set up an educational component to impact the children past mealtime. They wired the entire school campus to run on solar power, set up a computer lab and trained teachers in basic curriculum. Now, the Thomas Food Project has a salaried teaching and cook staff and a project manager with a computer science background. The project has grown to help four schools and has three mobile, solar-powered carts that can be taken throughout the community to charge laptops and mobile phones and run water purifiers for cooking and drinking.
McGuffin, a retired Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said “the ability to apply one’s God-given talents in mission is a blessing. That’s what you know best and if you can share with someone, all the better.”
The food program satisfies and immediate need, but using technology for development in Thomas will help community members develop skills to improve their situation long term.
“The path out of poverty is education,” McGuffin said. “There is business in Haiti, and hi-tech is beginning to move in. They have computers at hardware stores, banks. If you’ve got the skill to use a keyboard, you can get a job.”
McGuffin sees unlimited benefit in the growing information and communications technology (ICT) movement.
“As businessmen and scientists we feel we can place technology in the community to benefit and be sustainable. There’s always going to be a need for mission there but I equate what we’re doing with giving away fishing poles.”