Last week, I returned to Haiti for five days for the first time since our pilot launch back in October. It was an incredible trip, and so I wanted to share some of the highlights with you!
Firstly, did you know that low-cost tablets are now being manufactured in Haiti? In an attempt to re-establish Haiti as an electronics manufacturing hub, Surtab launched their offering of ‘Made in Haiti’ tablets last October, with their entry-level tablet (shown here) retailing for US $75.
The day after I arrived, I met with the Chief Operations Officer Patrick Sagna and toured the Surtab factory in Port-au-Prince. They have two assembly lines now with about 20 or so employees working in good conditions. While we at Library For All aim to work with a range of different device manufacturers and low-cost devices, it is great to see that Surtab is making in-roads with their company in Haiti and supporting the local economy to boot.
The rest of my time in Port-au-Prince was spent meeting with the Ministry of Education and potential partners. As we prepare for the launch of the second release of our app in April, we are actively meeting with new partner schools and NGOs who have requested access to the Library, either through direct connections or through our Partners page. It was great to learn about the work of leading educational organizations in Haiti, including World Wide Orphans, Inveneo, International Rescue Committee,Restavek Freedom, FOKAL and others. Our goal is to support these organizations in their existing educational and literacy programs, by providing a digital library of content that can enhance what they are already doing.
On the third day of my trip I headed out to our pilot school in Gressier, which was one of the most rewarding parts for me. Climbing the mountain to the school was like coming home – except this time there is a medical center and basketball court where before there were only foundations!
Thanks to donations from Inveneo and Restavek Freedom, I delivered some additional tablet models to test to the school “Librarians” and we immediately took them to the fifth grade classroom for Library class. Though I knew the students were used to our Library, it was incredible to see how quickly they dove into the stories. They were reading aloud to each other, taking notes, and talking about the characters and plots. Each week, the teachers charge the tablets and turn them off until they use them in class, increasing the battery life.
The tablets are used not only in the classroom, but are also enjoyed by the whole community. Staff at Respire run after-school English lessons for adults in the community and teachers at the school, and we brought tablets to those classes also. There was great excitement over the English – Kreyol dictionary that is in the Library, and it was a great opportunity for me to brush up on my Kreyol as well!
We made many meaningful connections in Haiti—some were scheduled, others were unexpected. Back in the office, I have more clarity than ever about the direction we need to go next, and I am excited to announce some big partnerships in the months to come. More than ever, I am convinced that as part of a holistic approach, in partnership with the local communities in which we work, Library For All has a vital role to play in improving access to knowledge.