Computing for a cause

BU students use technology skills to bolster Central Texas ministries and nonprofits

When Baylor University senior James Payne saw the children involved in Antioch Community Church’s STARS Mentoring Project reading books and engaging with their mentors, he knew his behind-the-scenes work was making a difference.

Payne, a computer science major in Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science, volunteers with Computing for Compassion (C4C), a student-led campus outreach tasked with tackling the technology challenges for Central Texas ministries and nonprofits.

"My work with Computing for Compassion has helped me realize I want to be on the people side of technology," Payne said.

By meeting organizations' technology needs, C4C gives ministries space to focus more on ministry and less on logistics, according to Jeff Donahoo, PhD, professor of computer science. He and Bill Booth, PhD, senior lecturer in computer science, launched the group in 2013.

"Ministries in Waco and beyond should be able to focus on their mission, not bogged down with technical challenges," Donahoo said. "C4C allows students with skills in computer science and information technology to use their gifts to magnify the capabilities of compassion-based ministries. Our goal is simply to help enhance the great work of these programs."

Current C4C projects include:

  • Streamlining volunteer resources for STARS Mentorship Program
  • Improving website and donor communication infrastructure for Global Banjara Baptist Ministries International (GBBMI)
  • Creating a mobile intervention app for children with attention deficit difficulties
  • Developing a church notes website for St. Luke Catholic Church in Temple, Texas
  • Developing a website for Baylor Agape Connection

C4C has more than 20 students working on projects. The group consists of mostly computer science majors, along with students in electrical and computer engineering, bioinformatics, mathematics and University Scholars. C4C is open to all students interested in using their technological skills to better the community.

The program is a win-win for the community and the students, Donahoo said. As students have the opportunity to speak into problem-solving techniques and infrastructure improvements, they gain valuable real-world experience that does significant good for the community.

Through their work with the STARS Mentoring Project, C4C students were able to augment the organization’s volunteer base by making it easier to bring in more mentors and service more students in need by improving their information technology.

The work goes far beyond a degree requirement, Donahoo explained. His hope from the beginning was to see students’ lives transformed through investing in others.

"We hope our students’ dedication will be ongoing," Donahoo said. "We hope that as students leave the university, they will carry forward a desire to plug in and support compassion-based ministries in their communities."