By Therese Fink Meyerhoff
Father Anthony Borrow, SJ, is, in his own words, a bit of a nerd. He loves math, and he loves to code. For the past 20 years, he has been deeply involved with open-source computer technology. Now, as the director of information technology for Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), he finds ways to support the staff through technology solutions.
Jesuit Refugee Service is an international organization founded by the Society of Jesus to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees. Located in more than 50 countries, JRS meets refugees’ educational needs, as well as their most basic human needs like food and healthcare.
JRS staff often find themselves working in the midst of intense conflicts with minimal resources. With courage and creativity, they continue to make progress.
“I am proud to work with staff members who are incredibly committed to JRS’s mission,” Fr. Borrow said.
Father Borrow is currently collaborating to develop a database that will help JRS manage both the work they are doing with refugees and JRS’s human resources. It helps track the data important to JRS, like whether the organization is meeting refugees’ educational needs or how many packets of food have been distributed. It is his hope that consistent, useful data will help alleviate some of the challenges JRS staff members deal with every day.
“Standing with refugees and accompanying them in their journey can mean that we are invited into some stressful and, at times, even dangerous situations,” Fr. Borrow said. “These are heroic people, and I am just in awe. I love supporting and helping those who are doing such incredible work. It’s my dream assignment: I get to use my tech skills to support that community of people doing some incredible work all over the world.”
Community and technology come together frequently in Fr. Borrow’s life and conversations. Twenty years ago, as a regent at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, he began to explore how he could better engage his more introverted students. He discovered Moodle, an open-source platform for online learning. “Open source” means that the code for the program is publicly available and is ever evolving thanks to user contributions.
“I still love Moodle as a way of collaboration.” Fr. Borrow said. “It’s an incredible implementation of the ideal of collaboration, because in the open-source community, it’s people collaborating for motives other than profit. It’s a fascinating way of working.”
Father Borrow would like to see more Jesuits utilizing open-source technology, especially for education. He has big dreams about combining open-source educational technology with Creative Commons materials to offer free online educational opportunities. For him, it’s about a just distribution of resources while promoting a culture of true collaboration.
“Education should be considered a human right,” he said. “Anyone at any time should have the ability to learn, pretty much whatever it is that they want to learn. This is the sort of frontier area that I dream the Society of Jesus will grow into.”
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