Luis Rosario and Duy Nguyen are helping to rebuild a nation. The RIT students are doing so as part of a UNICEF co-op experience at the Kosovo Innovations Lab in the capital city of Pristina.
UNICEF created the Kosovo Innovations Lab in November 2010 to create positive social change for Kosovo’s youth. With a median age of 26, Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe. The country declared independence as a sovereign nation in 2008, but it remains an impoverished nation with an unemployment rate of more than 40 percent.
At the lab, UNICEF encourages innovative projects that use the power of social, mobile and open source technologies. The goal is to encourage young Kosovars to transform their creativity into concrete projects that directly impact their own lives and the nation’s transformation.
Rosario, an Albion High School graduate, and Nguyen, a Greece Olympia graduate, are using their skills to help UNICEF in the Balkan region. Rosario is a 3rd-year new media interactive development major; Nguyen is a 4th-year IT major in web development/database management.
The two are a long way from home. They mostly miss the Garbage Plate. But they have been engrossed in their work in southeastern Europe for the past two months.
“We dove right into our work while we were flying over here,” says Rosario. “We can use our skills to make an impact right away.”
Rosario and Nguyen are involved in several projects:
• Vaccine management: Working with the Kosovo Ministry of Health, the duo have developed a vaccination form that can filled out by health workers on smart phones while they are in the field working with families. The data can then be shared immediately with hospitals.
• Stop smoking campaign: Cigarettes are prevalent in Kosovo and it is believed that more than half of all children in the country are exposed to smoking environments. The campaign is to raise awareness about smoking risks through tools such as visually-relevant games, as well as graphic and performing arts.
• Innovation Camp: The two assisted in establishing an innovation camp to help youth explore ideas and create an entrepreneurial spirit. The ultimate goal is to create jobs and stabilize the economy.
Rosario and Nguyen presented their work to RIT President Bill Destler, Provost Jeremy Haefner and Jim Myers, associate provost of international education and global programs, on their trip to Kosovo this week. The students clearly impressed the leadership team. RIT wants to ramp up the number of students who study and do co-op work abroad.
“This is a model story,” Destler says of Rosario and Nguyen’s progress.
“Kosovo is a special place because you can make an immediate impact,” says Chris Hall, president of RIT’s American University in Kosovo. “We have great connections with the government and we can be used as a resource. It’s an amazing time to be in Kosovo.”