Lending a Hand

At Agile 2007, we put on a workshop called RailsFest. The original intent was to provide a one day session would allow attendees an opportunity to work on a Ruby on Rails project.

What that project was to be, we didn’t really know. In the way that things sometimes work out, we ended up with the opportunity to work all week with a non-profit organization that has touched more lives than most of us ever will.

The organization that we were working with is called Mano a Mano. Their mission is to “improve the health and well being of impoverished Bolivians.” Segundo Velasquez, president of Mano a Mano, was our on-site customer, and I was lucky enough to work with him for part of the week.

At first, he was a little unsure of his role in the process, but by the end of the first afternoon he had become comfortable in expressing what he wanted the software to be. It was a lot of fun watching Segundo learn about and adapt to the approach that we were taking in creating software for his organization.

Mano a Mano works in a very different way than most other charity organizations. Though they provide aid to the economic poor in Bolivia, it is not a free handout. The intent of the whole process is to bootstrap poor communities.

Segundo told me of a specific project where they were able to increase the per capita income by 100% (from $150 to $300) the first year. By helping to provide the basic necessities that we often take for granted (e.g. potable water, roads to allow for the transportation of goods and people, etc.), the citizens were able to stop worrying about these basic things and concentrate on improving the lives of themselves, their families and their community.

Though RailsFest ended last Friday, there is still work to be done. If you are interested in giving back a little bit through your craft, please drop me a line at jim@8thlight.com.

Jim Suchy, Software Craftsman

Jim Suchy is a developer, a zymologist and a co-organizer of the Chicago Software Craftsmanship and Software Craftsmanship McHenry County user groups.