Thank you Western Digital!

Let me start with an introduction. My name is David N. Berger. I am 24 and an Arizona State University graduate in Global Studies. I serve as the Vice President of SRES – Southwest Research and Education Services, a not-for-profit organization that has been operating and providing services to families and those in need for over 25 years.

I’m also a community development and health volunteer in Eastern Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, I’m located in remote Northern Zambia, in the sub- tropic zone near Congo.

I’m assigned to a rural health clinic 56 km from the nearest town. I live in an African village. No, not that National Geographic concept I know you just pictured, but a mud-brick hut, grass roof, no potable water (I use a river several kilometers away). There is no electricity. I have a small portable Goal Zero solar panel and the solar charger on my steriPEN adventurer opti carrying case and that keeps me operational. Mail (letters and packages) take about a month to get to Mansa, the nearest provincial capital. To get to ‘town’ from my village, it is an 8km hike to the nearest passable road and an hour or more hitchhike in. Often with a hefty price tag on a volunteer’s allowance.

My RHC (Rural Health Clinic) services a roughly rectangular catchment of 56km x 11km, with a population of 9,127 people. It’s broken into eight zones and I have a monthly outreach cycle that I travel via bicycle. That is around 112km round trip to the furthest edge of my zone. The RHC staff is spectacular but…, well it’s difficult. There are three of us. Nine thousand one hundred and twenty seven to three. We’re working on outreach and education to train community health workers and neighborhood health committees for our zones, but it’s slow work.

Knowledge is hard to come by and let’s face it – without knowledge there’s no hope. So, by now I know your wondering, why the heck is this review called Western Digital. I’ll start with a little history.

I’ve had a lot of dealings with Western Digital. My first computer…that baby that you pick out…custom built, each component chosen and tweaked…your first investment in becoming technologically aware…those first few steps in basic programming, those first photos, games, assignments, memories and records of my life were stored on an 80GB Western Digital drive.

A lot of years have passed since that first adventure, with some drives failing and being replaced. You know the feeling of frustration and terror when your drive crashed and you thought all of your memories and work were gone. Western Digital’s products gave me the means to store and record my world and life in a whole new way. It opened possibilities for my education and future. Good solid equipment and customer service to back it up made me a return WD customer.

We’ve come a long long way since I first began using WD. The days of kilobytes and megabytes are passing. Programs are huge. Pictures capture so much detail they can’t be stored. Now we talk about terabytes like they’re candy. A 2 TB drive on sale for 89.99. Hot damn. Two terabytes! Unbelievable. A lifetime of information for so little.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Sitting on the shelf in Staples was the tool that would become the avenue to a better life for thousands of people.

Back to now. 9,127 people, almost 1,800 households of 6, each making a gross income of 2-3 million kwacha a year which is less than $400 US. That’s $65 per person for an entire year!! Today, with some training in health, sanitation, and nutrition, the family can work harder, spend less time debilitated by manageable diseases, and can double that income. Add access to knowledge about agriculture, small business, household management and empowerment and those households stand to double it again. Rising from a meager $400 a year to nearly $2,000. That’s no exaggeration. That’s the power of knowledge. It literally saves lives, provides opportunity, and gives hope for a better life.

As VP of SRES, a non-profit educational corporation, I acquired a digital library of 4800 development-focused materials through CD3WD. CD3WD is a development organization run by Alex Weir. I loaded up this incredibly valuable library of appropriate technology information on my 2TB Western Digital drive and brought it with me to my service in Africa. What a fantastic war chest – an arsenal for the fight for basic human liberties and rights… tools to bring hope to thousands.

The library includes pamphlets, research documents, studies, and illustrations in the areas of agriculture, livestock, health, nutrition, economic strengthening, appropriate technology and others. It’s a 23 gigabyte set of information. Information that is saving lives at my clinic where it has been used as a reference manual for curative health. This information is giving hope to women and girls through economic empowerment and better maternity and prenatal care. This information is allowing farmers who can barely survive on their fields to learn to integrate natural fertilizers and agricultural practices that can triple or quadruple their yield.

The drive and company I’ve put my trust in? Western Digital.

That portable external drive holds the key to the futures of 9,127 people, in my catchment alone. It acted reliably to serve as a vehicle to share that library with six different international NGO’s, four government ministry offices, and 18 individual development agents, who are using it in program development and write me daily exclaiming how spectacular it is.

On Tuesday, my heart nearly stopped. A power surge, coupled with the humid tropical air, shorted out the drive.

We called Western Digital and spoke to a supervisor. Western Digital’s response? “If you can get it to us, we’ll replace the drive, waive the data recovery fees, send it out to the best company we have, expedite its replacement, and if the data is salvageable get it loaded up and back to you as soon as we can.”

Spectacular! Not some corporate bull$!%& line about rules and procedure. Not a, “Sorry there’s nothing we can do” (aka we don’t care) or “Buy a new drive”…Instead, I was met with caring support staff that listened to the unit’s purpose, realized its importance and went out of their way to comp every expense they could, leaving me only to pay shipping.

Thanks Western Digital!! From a remote corner of no-where under the African stars, I can lay back and know that someone out there really cares, understands their product’s value, and is willing to work with administrative procedures for the benefit of their fellow man.






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