TAB-Intel Manzini

The team from Intel’s Employee Service Corps in Manzini, Swaziland, who are working this week to rehabilitate a computer room at St. Anne’s High School in partnership with the Telluride AIDS Benefit. (Courtesy photo)

It isn’t February yet, but that doesn’t mean Telluride AIDS Benefit (TAB) staff and volunteers aren’t busy.

Here in Telluride, preparations are underway for World AIDS Day, which takes place Dec. 1 each year. TAB will the mark the day Nov. 30 with Twenty(by)Telluride, the HIV Edition and a dance party, both at the Liberty.

“World AIDS Day is a celebration of life, but also of HIV awareness and activism,” TAB Executive Director Jessica Galbo said. “TAB has a few activities that coincide with World AIDS Day and really mark the occasion. First, we host our event on Nov. 30, so the dancing brings us into Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, which happens to be the first day tickets go on sale for TAB Fashion Shows XXVII.”

The evening will begin with Twenty(by)Telluride, the HIV Edition, according to Galbo, who promises “a fabulous compilation of stories and pictures by a terrific lineup. This year we will have Katy Parnello, the 2020 artistic director and director/choreographer of more than five shows; Dean Rolley, who has been involved since the beginning of TAB; board president Matt Hintermeister; and a surprise presenter to be announced.”

She added, “Twenty(by)Telluride is an incredible format” through which audiences will “laugh, cry and learn.”

The event will be followed by a dance party, with DJ Wombat.

“We advertise for the model auditions at this event in an effort to get the Telluride community members excited to volunteer,” Galbo explained. “It’s also a terrific event for us to introduce TAB to those new to town or here for the winter season, and also get our base of supporters and volunteers fired up for Fashion Week 2020. All the time, TAB keeps its mission at the forefront of our effort … (to) fight, fund and educate for HIV and AIDS.”

Farther afield, a volunteer team of eight Intel engineers — all members of Intel’s Employee Service Corps (IESC) — headed to Manzini, Swaziland, Nov. 8. The primary purpose of their trip is to rehabilitate a computer lab for the 350 students at the St. Anne’s High School for Girls.

According to Intel employee and IESC member John Parks, the partnership between IESC and TAB came about in 2017, when he was visiting Telluride and stayed in TAB board member Doug Ford’s condo. The pair ran into then-TAB executive director Michelle Maughan one evening and started talking. As part of IESC, Parks had been involved in multiple projects in Africa. Maughan told him about Manzini Youth Care, a nonprofit that has worked with TAB since 2003 and serves children who’ve been orphaned or abandoned in Swaziland, the country with the highest HIV and AIDS infection rates in the world.

“I had been doing projects in Africa since about 2010,” Parks said. “Two of the teams from Intel that I had mentored had done projects in Swaziland, so I was very interested.”

Parks subsequently connected with Ed Hendrickson, who cofounded Manzini Youth Care with his wife, Leslie, and from there, the project developed to include two stints in Manzini, the second-largest city in Swaziland. Last year, in November 2018, a group of Intel engineers rehabilitated a computer lab at a boys’ high school in town, according to Parks.

“The primary focus then was building out the computer lab at Salesian High School, but the project had a bunch of secondary aims,” Parks said. “The team went to Manzini Youth Care to help them. They also worked with a mobile computer lab called Girls Got Game that takes computers into rural areas to inspire girls to learn about computers, and then several times a year brings the girls into Salesian High School for workshops. The team also visited a hospice, and the final thing they did was to visit St. Anne’s High School.”

St. Anne’s is an all-girls school in Manzini, and while the IESC-TAB collaboration focused on the boys in its first year, Parks said he was determined to include female students the second year.

“I wanted to go to a girls’ high school because they are more underserved,” he said. “So I got everyone to commit to a two-year effort — Intel committed to it as well — that the following year we would go to the girls’ school. That’s what the team this year is doing.”

The project will see the build-out of a 50-seat computer lab at St. Anne’s, a return to Salesian High School to upgrade equipment and software, and beefing up security and electricity supplies. Parks explained that he arranged for local contractors to do some advance work. As a result, he said, the team has hit the ground running.

“Everything’s going well so far, everything’s going to plan,” he said, adding that the group brought along 50 Intel NUC computers, small next-generation computers that take up little space. “The guys split them up and carried them in their suitcases.”

Parks added, “The team is split into several different pieces. The tech team is focused on setting up the computers, the network and configuring everything. Those guys are doing fantastic. Then there’s another team focused on teaching. They are teaching primarily the teachers at the school, but hopefully they will get to work with the students as well. Jessica Vanterpool is our social media person and the project leader is Kieshawn Lewis.”

Parks commented that, like last year, there will be other secondary activities, one of which was the brainchild of coding club students at Telluride High School, who have been exchanging coding challenges with their counterparts at Salesian High School.

“Since Telluride High School raises money for TAB, I thought this would give them an opportunity to get to know this other high school,” Parks pointed out. “Both have a computer club now, and they have been exchanging programming challenges, which is awesome. The latest challenge involves the Python programming language. We took Salesian High School a couple drones last year. This year, we want them to learn to program the drones with Python, so the team has brought out Python tools and a curriculum.

“It’s super exciting for the students at both schools that they are making these connections.”

Galbo added that although Parks, who travels frequently to Africa and other far-flung places, wasn’t available to join the team in Swaziland this year, she hopes he will present at a future Twenty(by)Telluride. She also praised his contribution.

“Not only will the community benefit from the new and improved access to technology, but improving education has been show to positively impact the HIV and AIDS epidemic by reducing HIV infection rates through increasing access to information about the disease as well as providing greater opportunities to improve individuals’ lives through enhanced knowledge and achievement,” she said.

For more information, visit tellurideaidsbenefit.org or find TAB on Facebook or Instagram.