WiRED International — Twenty Years of Medical and Health Education in Underserved Regions



s WiRED International begins its 20th year, this Web page will present a series of stories about our past and offer comments and observations from people involved with WiRED during our two decades of work in developing regions. WiRED started operations in 1997 by providing Internet connections in war-ravaged towns throughout the former Yugoslavia and now focuses on medical and health education in underserved regions around the world using computer technology. WiREDís training programs have become global resources, used by hospitals and clinics, schools, other non-governmental organizations and universities. On this Web page we will look at the history of the organization, the people who have contributed to the mission and those who have benefited from the work of this volunteer-driven organization.


"We view the people themselves as the solution, not passive beneficiaries. We begin with the assumption of competence and provide educational resources that can help in the communities we're serving."


— Paraphrasing writer
David Bornstein


"The ripple effect of information to improve community health is significant. The knowledge people acquire enables them to become participants in their own health care. This means they engage in better behaviors, recognize early signs and symptoms, and understand how to work with health professionals to address illness and disease."


— Charlotte Ferretti,
R.N., Ed.D.
WiRED Board Member


"I feel very grateful and rich with the knowledge. The certificate has boosted my self-esteem, especially in my work in schools and in the community."


— Gumbe Alaka
staff member
Kisumu, Kenya


"The children were impressed [by the WiRED dental module] and asked many questions, which was very exciting. After our discussion they promised to brush their teeth the way they were taught today and to follow good dental hygiene."


— Satine Manukyan,
nurse, Orran NGO
Yerevan, Armenia


"These modules have changed the lives of many in the grass roots audience, including school children and teachers whom we reach. The Certificate Program has increased the number of people able to access health information."


— Steve Wonder Okello
Obunga, Kenya


"The association of Project Amazonas with Wired International has been highly productive for us. The Spanish-language health modules and the computer and AV equipment provided by Wired allow us to take health education to where the people are ó the isolated river-side communities of the many tributaries of the Amazon. The Wired modules will be a core element of our boat- and land-based rural medical service expeditions, allowing us to effectively integrate education and treatment in the Amazon."


— Dr. Devon Graham
Project Amazonas


"Health education isn't as dramatic as a daring rescue, but it saves countless lives. Prevention is a grand bargain."


— Gary Selnow
WiRED Director

WiREDís History Part 1: WiRED International's Beginning

Two computer technicians and I rode in a small van headed down a dark rutted road in far eastern Croatia. We had worked a long day in the war-damaged school in Vukovar, a town disfigured and dispirited by conflict sitting on the edge of the Danube River. We were exhausted, hungry and drained of emotion, eager to reach the next town, 30 miles away, to get a sandwich and a few hours of sleep before returning to our work at the school. There were no hotels in Vukovar; they were long gone. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 2: WiRED Turns Its Focus to Medical and Health Education after Work in Kosovo

In 1999, not long after the end of NATOís aerial bombing of Serbia, the U.S. State Department asked me to join a team that the Department had assembled to build a network of seven Internet Access Centers (IAC) across Kosovo. The State Department had been tracking WiREDís Internet programs elsewhere in the Balkans, and it recognized that WiRED International knew the region, knew the technology involved and knew what training programs were necessary to prepare administrators to manage local centers. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 3: WiRED International's Video Visit Program

We left the International Organization for Migration (IOM) offices in Pristina, Kosovo, early on a summer morning in 2000, allowing plenty of time to reach the Skopje airport in Macedonia, 54 miles away. It was Sunday, so traffic was light. Five hours should be enough time to navigate our van over the badly damaged roads, breeze through the border crossing and cruise on up to the airport, where the crowds would be minimal. And so, four of us ó the driver and I, a nurse and a five-year-old boy ó rolled out of town and on our way. Except for the nurse and the boy, we were strangers to each other. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 4: WiRED Launches Its Community Health Information Centers in Kenya

In the late 1990s, HIV/AIDS continued to frighten and mystify. It lashed out at populations around the world, but it hit communities in Africa especially hard. Entire villages were wiped out; in many places, only the very young and the very old survived, with the middle carved out by a disease most people could not understand. This cruel and seemingly indiscriminate illness rendered its victims frail ghosts of their former selves, symbols of an evil in towns throughout the African continent. While in the United States and Western Europe, AIDS was initially known as a gay disease,1 in Africa, the devastation to both men and women azlike suggested to many that some other curse was at work. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 5: WiREDís Medical and Health Education Work in Kenya — From the Leading Medical School to Remote Villages

Early in 2003 WiRED International launched a Medical Information Center (MIC) in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Nairobi. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Johnnie Carson, gave the keynote speech during which he discussed the power of information. Iíll get to that in a minute, but first I would like to tell a brief story about an incident that took place during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 6: The Beginning of WiRED's Work in Iraq

May 2003, soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq — Some people are blessed and can sleep through anything. As luck would have it, Iím not one of them. It was 1:30 in the morning, my first night in Iraq. I was staring at the ceiling, listening to the howling sandstorm pounding the side of the building, which happened to be one of Saddam Husseinís palaces. Along with the sound of wind and the grating of sand against the windows, I could hear the snoring of 20 men in our makeshift dorm — two rows of steel-frame cots — set up for advance teams. With the arrival of troops in Baghdad in the spring of 2003, the United States and other coalition member countries sent people to help with infrastructure, security, administration and the other services needed to stabilize Iraq. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 7: WiRED's Work in Iraq: Part #2

Before leaving Iraq after my first visit, I frantically searched computer shops in Baghdad to find hardware for the MIC we would install at the largest hospital complex in the country. I found a good lead in Talal, an Iraqi businessman who saved his computers from the violence of war by securing them in a barn outside of town. He said he would bring a dozen computers to Baghdad when I returned. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 8: WiRED's Work in Iraq: Part #3

WiRED provided medical and health education programs in Iraq from spring 2003 to late 2009. As the two prior stories in this history series describe, we worked initially from the relative safety of the Green Zone, then from Baghdad hotels and safe houses while providing Iraqi hospitals and universities throughout the country with equipment and training software. Having few financial resources, we traveled without security details, instead remaining inconspicuous, beneath the radar of insurgents. We rode in battered cars whose windows were broken and taped; the tape obscured our identity. We had close calls, as did anyone who traveled in Iraq during the mid-2000s, witnessing the violence firsthand. We lost friends who suffered vicious and deliberate attacks because of who they were and what they were doing to help the Iraqi people. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 9: Nicaragua

Itís a custom in many countries for religious leaders to bless new facilities, such as new offices, schools and community programs. In Nicaragua, a predominantly Catholic country, a priest will generally perform the ritual, which involves a prayer and maybe a brief homily before a gathering of well-wishers. And so, while WiRED remains firmly nonsectarian, ensuring its neutrality in all countries, we typically follow local customs when launching a new health education program. Read more »



WiREDís History Part 10: WiREDís Work in Armenia

The Armenian countryside is breathtakingly beautiful. The lush, green fields in the mountainous northeast are deeply creased and laced with rutted paths etched by livestock over the centuries. The land in Armenia, and its history, stretching back to the Bronze Age, are tightly bound. When visiting here, itís tempting to visualize shepherds during ancient times, tending sheep on the sides of these hills. The Armenian story thus tells about its great beauty, and its rich and complicated history. Sadly, it also must include its long-standing conflict with its neighbor to the east, Azerbaijan. Fighting, which started a century ago over Nagorno-Karabakh, has of late picked up steam. Although hostilities occur mostly in the southeastern portion of Armenia, where, last year, more than 200 people on both sides were killed, tensions remain high along the entire border. Read more »




Stories from Our Archives



ome stories from our archives...


11-Year Old Boy Saves His Family from HIV/AIDS

Popularly known as "the Computer place", WiRED International's Community Health Information Center (CHIC) in Butula is proving to be the best strategy for fighting AIDS. Confirming the popular notion that "information is power," the story of 11-year-old Joseph is a testimony to WiRED's work in this part of the world. Read more »



Although Joseph was not allowed to participate in adult conversations, he found the courage to state the words that saved his family. "I have seen my aunt's disease on the computer," Joseph told his stunned family. Before anyone could stop him, Joseph advised them to secure an AIDS test.



Shared Vision Brings WiRED to Kenya

From the moment Kenya gained independence in 1963, local and national leaders have envisioned a day when the country could finally eradicate poverty, ignorance, and disease. Leaders then and now realize that any real progress against any one of these three tightly interwoven challenges requires simultaneous progress in the other two areas as well. Read more »



"The Center is a godsend. I view it as a way to keep current in my field and as preparation for more formal education; once I find the funds, I will go back to school with clear learning goals in mind."
— Edwin Mwayongo



Central American countries welcome new WiRED centers

In a whirlwind three days in August, WiRED opened Medical Information Centers (MICs) in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Ribbon cutting ceremonies at the three new MIC openings brought out doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and many celebrants from the local communities.
Read full story in English > (en EspaŮol >)


Read more »



"Education and health go hand in hand; you cannot teach people who are not healthy and you cannot advance healthcare without education."
— Mrs. Grace Rodriguez
Education Delegate of the San Marcos Community






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