Who could forget more than 68,000 people killed, countless homes destroyed and lives shattered in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008? Yet even as many of the rebuilding projects are moving well and many of the people have been re housed attention now turns to the economic sustainability of the region.

As you may know our Unlimited Potential (UP) grants are focused on improving the economic situation of people through technology. In my experience this often comes to life in places and ways that you least expect. Take my recent visit to the Sanjiang Community Technology Learning Centre and home visits in Caoping Village. Both of these areas benefited from a grant through our partner Fuping Institute who are currently bringing the UP technology training to many areas affected by the quake.

Following the earthquake many residents were left with nothing and often the men, were forced into the cities to look for work leaving their families behind. This is where the story of one great woman I met comes to life. While she was living in the city with her husband she decided to do a computer course, she owned two pigs and was considering starting out in farming. Thanks to the basic computer skills she learned, she had more confidence and she was able to learn more about farming methods, and importantly she was able to learn about the potential market value of her produce – ensuring she would know the fair market value even though she was in a disconnected rural area.

This woman now has more than 100 pigs and is both self-sufficient and successful. She credits her ability to use the internet and also learning to use Excel to track her work with helping her business to grow. She admitted that when she started the course she was not sure what she wanted to achieve but that it had surpassed her wildest expectations.

She was just one of many inspiring people I met. I was moved by the current training class who presented the PowerPoint skills they had learnt to tell the story of the earthquake. One man told me how in just a few minutes his whole world changed but how he was adamant that he would rebuild and that learning technology had brought him hope.

I met a woman and a man who had taken the basic training course and were opening up guest houses in the newly rebuilt area. They said tourists were slowly coming back and they were using their computer to keep track of guests and accounts. In the beginning they both took the course to give themselves something to do and they didn’t realize how much impact it would have – the more they learn the more ides they are getting for their business. With their guest houses close together, these two are friends but it looks like the competition in Caoping Village could be hotting up!

When you see someone light up when they tell you about how learning to use technology is changing their outlook on life you can’t help but be affected – I know I couldn’t.