Involving our supporters in the journey of Library For All has always been a goal.
Last week that was achieved as we took three of our closest supporters to Haiti to see the development of our program first hand, and help us host the first Stakeholder Meeting in Port-au-Prince. Lisa Schultz, Andrew Sheinman and Maritza Chateau accompanied us on the first Library For All supporters trip.
The trip was in some ways a trip of contrasts – from the dusty, bustling streets of Port-au-Prince, to the peace and tranquility of rural Port Salut, and back again. The trip began with a 5-hour journey across the country to the south end of the island, to visit our partner Restavek Freedom. This organization undertakes community development programs, focused on tackling the root causes of the practice of restavek (child slavery) that is prevalent across Haiti. There are estimated to be between 200,000-500,000 children in Haiti in restive. Joan Conn, Founder of Restavek Freedom, travelled with us as we visited their literacy center in Port Salut, which currently provides English language classes to young people in the area. Joan Conn, Founder of Restavek Freedom, travelled with us as we visited their literacy center in Port Salut, which currently provides English language classes to young people in the area. Joan received 50 Surtab tablets from a
generous donor, and we were able to load the tablets with content in French, Enlgish, Kreyol and Spanish. A class of around 40 students came to test-drive the Library, and at the end of the class it was amazing to hear them summarize what they had learnt! Visiting some rural community schools that are not even served by water highlighted to me the huge challenges that we face in bringing accessibility to some of the most rural places. On the drive home from Port Salut we stopped at our pilot school, Respire. We updated the Library with some new content, and spent some time in Library class with the students. I was also delighted to see the famous “Biblio Tap Tap” at the school, a sort of travelling mobile library, operated by our friends at FOKAL. We hope in the future to be able to supplement their library with digital resources – that would be so great!
The highlight of the trip for me was the Stakeholder Meeting, which was hosted at Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince. This was our first ever Stakeholder meeting, and 80 representatives from organizations across Haiti came to see a demo of the Library For All app, and learn about Phase 2 of the project. The event sparked some lively conversation about the use of technology to improve access to information and knowledge, and how this might be scaled up to reach even the poorest of areas. Also, I had the great opportunity to meet with the office of the Minister of Education, who shared some recent efforts that they are undertaking with technology in the classroom. A key part of our strategy is to ensure that we align with the government’s plans and support policy development and planning at the national level.
As ever, we faced technical and operational challenges as we continue to improve and develop our program. Our CTO Michael Oneppo and developer Anthony Tumbiolo were up all night fixing bugs and configuring tablets, and our operations team were frantically preparing for our first Stakeholder Meeting in Haiti. However, slowly but surely, Haiti seeped into our skin, and we all began to slow down enough to be truly humbled by the people that we met and the experiences that we had together. More than anything, this trip was another huge learning opportunity for us, as we seek to provide tools that will integrate with existing efforts and have far-reaching impact. It was an honor to have Maritza, Lisa and Andrew join us and help out with photography (all pictures in this blog are thanks to Maritza!), translation, reading with the students and even serving food at the Stakeholder Meeting! You can read about their experiences in their own words here!