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Martha Beatty Panel Statement: Community Work without a Personal Computer

Hi, My name is Martha Beatty.  I am the Director of Community Outreach Advocates, a non-profit organization, and a Leader in the Rural Development Leadership Network.  I live in rural Hoke County, in Raeford North Carolina U.S. where most families are low income.  We are 30 minutes away from urban counties with hospitals, community colleges, public transportation and many other needed services.  Even there, most agencies open at 8 or 9 am and close at 5 or 6 pm Monday thru Friday.  Public access to computers, faxing, copying and other services close at this time also.  This is a major issue for our county, which is one of the poorest counties in the state.  We are in the top percentage of teen pregnancy, unemployment and teen dropouts.  We have a high rate of diabetes, heart disease and other health disparities. 

In the U.S., most towns have free internet at the public library.  So, I rely on the Hoke County Public Library Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm M-W-F and 9am-8pm Tuesday and Thursday and 9am-5pm on Saturday.  Anything that needs to be done or checked on email normally has to happen between these time frames, except holiday closings and inclement weather. 

A home computer is almost as necessary to a business as transportation, lights, water and food to the success and access of information whenever you need it.  The challenge of doing community development work without a home computer is that you have limited access to resources, and to the world of technology.  If information is needed on a Friday after 5 on a holiday weekend or bad weather day you would not have any way of receiving the information until the next business day.  This year, we had several days of snow when businesses and the public library were closed; therefore there was no access to computers from Friday afternoon until Wednesday.

I am one of the fortunate who has transportation and can travel to the public library. But there are far too many homes with children who do not have access to the public library and parents who do not know how to use computers.  My desire is for every home to have a computer or access to a resource center or church in the neighborhood, at least within walking distance, so these youth will have some of the advantages that more fortunate youth have.

The challenges of not having a home computer are great but for the most part we have managed to navigate the system and get some things done, sometimes not as timely as we desire to.  As time, resources and more financial support becomes available, we pray that a home computer for myself and so many others will become a reality.

An RDLN Leader, Martha Beatty is the Director of Community Outreach Advocates, a non-profit research and referral association serving rural Hoke County.   Under the guidance of her Sponsoring Organization North Carolina Hunger Network, Beatty’s Field Project is to establish a supervised youth center in Raeford.