OLPCorps Tulane University & UC Davis – Sierra Leone


This is Sierra Leone by Katie McCarthy
July 20, 2009, 10:30 am
Filed under: Rants and Raves, Team Info

This is Sierra Leone…

This is Sierra Leone.

It’s remarkable how much one sentence can say. It’s even more amazing how the emphasis of words can change the meaning of a sentence. Four small words convey an important message.

More often than not, it’s the first sentence we hear. “This is Sierra Leone…” followed by a shoulder shrug and averted eyes. We’ve heard it most notably twice. The first was during our customs exchange. In brief, it was implied to mean that in order to get our shipment through customs, bribery was necessary. This is Sierra Leone… if you want to get things done quickly, you need to pay someone. Corruption is a way of life, especially in a country where government jobs are highly prized but it takes months or years to get a paycheck. “This is Sierra Leone…” followed by a shoulder shrug and averted eyes. The second time we heard the phrase was when we were talking to DCI about volunteers to teach the class. We were told that people would not volunteer their time without some financial incentive. We should pay travel expenses; give them food; something to get them to help ease the burden of volunteering. Now, it would not cost our program much to pay travel expenses: a Honda (motorbike) costs Le 1000 (approximately thirty American cents). If we paid each volunteer to come each day for the duration of the program (about four weeks), we would spend about 60USD. Less than what most people in the US make in a day… but that’s not the point. We are looking for people to volunteer their time and talents to benefit their children. We’re bringing so many other resources and providing a program that will help their children (and we’re already supplementing the salary for some), that it is a little frustrating that people can’t pay for transportation. That they can’t invest in a project for a few hours each day to help kids learn to use the computers. Luckily, the last example was reversed when we said we were planning to give the volunteers we trained certificates presented at a big ceremony.

That mindset seems prevalent in many parts of Africa. I’ve heard many a seasoned traveler use its parent: This is Africa, TIA. It’s the same mentality. Africa is some heart of darkness, only to be penetrated by the brave of heart and the tough of stomach. It’s not some place regular people want to go. It’s exotic, a place of mystery; it’s scary, a place to be fearful of. It’s a place where the do-gooders or the do-badders go to fulfill their mission. It’s a place to be developed; it’s a place to be exploited. It’s extreme. It’s not some place regular people want to go.

But it’s not that simple, that dichotomous. No country… no CONTINENT should be brushed off so easily. Africa, and speaking from my experience in Sierra Leone, is a complex place of unique traditions, cultures, histories, and peoples. Imagine how absurd it would sound to say, “This is Asia” or “This is North America.” I’m sure some Canadians would be very offended by the latter statement. So, let’s look at the other statement I began with: This is Sierra Leone.

This is Sierra Leone. Looking straight into your eyes, shoulders proud, small smile. A young man reads about genetics from an old biology textbook for fun. Little kids use their free time to learn to use a computer. Young adults spending their nights reading all they can on chemistry, literature, and physics on Wikipedia. Teachers at a workshop proudly display their books. Small girls confidently sing “Education is good for the girl child, for the family and also for the nation” in front of beaming parents. Sierra Leoneans value education, thirsting for information and knowledge; they do not take it for granted.

This is Sierra Leone. Looking straight into your eyes, shoulders proud, small smile. People give us the special food, reserved only for select occasions, possibly leaving themselves hungry. Bikers, many of whom are ex-combatants, explain the new helmet law to me and point out where I can buy one. A stranger greets us in the street, laughing when we reply in Mende, and then teaching us new words, becoming a friend. Sierra Leoneans are incredibly friendly and hospitable.

This is Sierra Leone. Looking straight into your eyes, shoulders proud, small smile. Fruit and bread vendors pick the perfect pieces to sell to us. They usually tell us the correct price, despite our lack of knowledge. Most people don’t try to take advantage of us. They search for foods we are looking for. Sierra Leoneans are honest and fair.

This is Sierra Leone. Looking straight into your eyes, shoulders proud, small smile. LUCOWODA, the Lumbebu women’s organization, supports local women and runs a school focusing on vulnerable children and girl children (see the link for a video clip). Action Plus, an NGO, supports victims of domestic violence, advocates for better laws and justice, and sensitizes communities against domestic violence. Defence for Children International advocates and supports children, and diligently supports our program. Sierra Leoneans, who may have had other options, decide to serve their people.

This is Sierra Leone. Looking straight into your eyes, shoulders proud, small smile. The fruit and vegetables are amazing, fresh and delicious. The countryside is beautiful. The rain bursts make the air smell clean and new. The torrential rain at night on the corrugated metal roof is a better way to go to sleep than any sleep machine I’ve ever heard. Sierra Leone, and its productions, is beautiful.

This is Sierra Leone. Looking straight into your eyes, shoulders proud, small smile. Children of both of the major religions, Christian and Muslim, play and live together. Children of various tribes know and respect each others’ languages. Sierra Leoneans respect many differences that have divided other countries.

There are problems in Sierra Leone. But the problems should not eclipse the virtues the country and her people possess. At a conference we attended this week, I was inspired by a returned Peace Corps volunteer, teacher, and Salone advocate. He was running the workshop where teachers created their own teaching materials, books. “Some people say Sierra Leone is poor and they cite the statistics. But if you look at your books, Sierra Leone is NOT poor. There is so much knowledge and beauty and so much worthwhile. How are you going to share this? What’s next?”

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Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth’s project in Kenema by Katie R
July 20, 2009, 10:27 am
Filed under: In the News, OLPCorps

This project is a marathon, not a sprint. And during a marathon, there are times when things get slower, right? In the middle of the race, when the adrenaline from starting has worn off and the adrenaline of finishing has not kicked in, things slow down. Well, that’s where we are now. We’re in the middle of the race, coming up against several large hills. We’ve blogged quite extensively about the hills: our internet access and connectivity, and the ever present and mercilessly steep mountain of customs. But now, we’d like to provide an update of the long marathon, the part after we “Hit the Ground Running.”

Since we have had so much time without the laptops, and we have been unable to begin the children’s classes, we’ve been everything we can think of to prepare for everything else.

We finished a very thorough and very successful teacher training more than a week ago using our own personal XOs instead of waiting for our shipment of 100 to come in.  It lasted about twice as long as we expected it to – we had training all day, every day for about 2 weeks straight!  Our teachers and volunteers were so interested in learning, even when we said we were done, they stayed to explore, read and learn.  We try to look at this as one positive thing that came out of our quarantined laptops: if we had had them at our site sooner, the teacher training probably would not have gone on as long as it did before the classes started.  So, at least this way we know that our teachers and volunteers really have a good handle on the laptops.

Throughout the training people would come and go throughout the day; but, for the most part, many of the teachers and volunteers came everyday and stayed for several hours, if not the whole time.  We had our DCI teachers, plus a volunteer or two from each of the organizations who contributed to the selection-of-children process and some representatives from the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) in the four communities targeted by DCI. Additionally, some of the other DCI volunteers would drop in between the young adult computer classes that they teach in an adjoining room and some of our friends from last year that would just drop in to say hi and eventually end up in from of an XO for a little while…  In total, about 15 adults were exposed to the XO training in some form and about eight had extensive training. We set up a post-training evaluation on the server for them to access on the last day. We’ll include some updates on the evaluations once we’ve been able to look at them thoroughly.

DSCN3900

Barrie, Vanday, Banie, Katie and Katie during our Training of Trainers

These teachers and volunteers will act in several capacities. First, those from the CWCs and the partner organizations will act as satellite troubleshooters, child protection advocates and XO community advocates. They will be able to communicate with the DCI staff in case of any problems and they are familiar faces for the kids.  If only we had some kids for our teachers to teach…

Actually, we do have kids for the teachers to teach.  DCI has finalized a list of about 80 kids for the classes, with the option of adding more depending on if any of the 100 XOs are broken beyond repair when they arrive.  Since our project is more of a community center set-up instead of school set-up, DCI collaborated with some of the other child protection organizations in town to include kids within our age range from their programs.  We’ve had a lot of time to think about the schedule and outline of teaching for the kids.

The schedule for the classes, because it is summer vacation for most of the kids, is pretty flexible.  We tried to break it down so that we can balance between not having too many kids at once and having kids for a long enough period of time so that they can leave with a fully or almost fully charged battery.  There are three class session times (morning, mid-day, afternoon), with two classes of 12-15 kids during each session.  Each child will have the opportunity to come a half hour before or after their class session to charge their laptops.  If only we had the laptops so we could bring in the kids…

The curriculum is also slowly coming to fruition. Paul and Barrie, our DCI teachers, having spent some time mastering the XOs, are putting the finishing touches on our curriculum.  We brainstormed a bit last week about material beyond computer skills, resulting in a curriculum cocktail of DCI’s mission (protecting the rights of children) and the background of four-fifths of our OLPCorps team (international public health) as material for the classes.  We decided use the XOs (supplemented by e- texts, internet research, and guest speakers) as a tool to educate our young pupils on important public health and human rights topics, teaching them computer skills along the way.   We’ll split up the weeks among small learning projects on malaria, recognizing basic symptoms of illness (headache, stomach ache, etc.), hygiene, the international rights and responsibilities of the child, as well as local laws in Sierra Leone that protect children.  Guest speakers, friends of ours from the Kenema Government Hospital and Eastern Polytechnical College, will come in provide talk about some of diseases and hygiene, while DCI staff will cover the human rights arena.  Kids can use this info as the starting point for some of their learning projects, and can research more information as their interest dictates.  An cool example that Banie (one of the DCI staff) gave… after a some basic info on malaria, kids can use Wikipedia to look up additional information on it, can go online and find a picture of a mosquito to see what it looks like, use paint to draw their own mosquito, and use Scratch to make an animation showing the mosquito biting a person and transmitting malaria into their bloodstream.  We thought that was cool, anyway.

Another great resource that we’ll incorporate into our lesson plans (thank you, Emily!) and make available to our pupils and, possibly just as importantly, their parents and families is an electronic version of a book called Where There Are No Doctors.  It is handbook written for anyone who wants to do something about his or her own and other people’s health.  Even where there are doctors and medical centers nearby, it is a great resource with guidelines on how to recognize common health problems, what to do about them, and when to go to for help.  If only we had our laptops so we can start classes…

Still waiting for our laptops on the new benches...

Still waiting for our laptops on the new benches...

We also have the part of the DCI offices all ready to be our classrooms.  We’ve commissioned and received tables and benches for the children to work on and oriented them in several different configurations- they’re currently empty and lonely in the main classroom instead of supporting the weight of little bodies and eager minds…

We built a shelf for the server and access points; figured out where plugs are and where power strips should go so that each child can be plugged in while in class, we even (almost) have internet set up (more on that later).  We successfully Nandblasted one of our own XOs to make sure it would work (it did).

Stickers and Buttons

Stickers and Buttons

We brought T-shirts for our teachers and our volunteers, to be handed out at the opening ceremony, along with some beautiful certificates of appreciation.  We even have little XO buttons for each child and stickers for kids when they master an activity.  If only we had classes to use them in…

We have met with staff from the DCI Headquarters office in Freetown, with the Deputy Director of Education in Kenema, c

ity council members in charge of education, etc. to explain the project and ask for their blessing.   We even had a spot on the radio this week about the project, or at least, Mary, Margaret, and Elizabeth did…  The radio journalist didn’t catch our real names, so he just made some up.  Either way, it was about our laptop project, and people in town heard and they are excited.

We are excited too… and we are running out of ideas on things we can do to prepare…

T shirts close up

OLPC Kenema T-shirts

If only we had our laptops.



Teachers Training Teachers by Katie R
July 20, 2009, 9:31 am
Filed under: Teaching

Book on Common Diseases that Affect Children, made by teachers at the Bo FoSL Teacher TrainingLast Friday our group got to take its first jaunt outside of Kenema (excluding Freetown of course), and headed to Bo, an easy 45 minute taxi ride. The ride was cramped (although we’ve had worse), and cost about $2 a person.

We went there to give our project presentation to a teachers workshop. The workshop was called Teachers Training Teachers and was led by Katherine and Richard Frazier of Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL), and was also supported by Schools For Salone (SFS). Drs. Frazier (both Sierra-Leonean Peace Corp volunteers from 70’s) had found that school teachers of the area felt paralyzed by the lack of available educational materials. The goal of the workshop was to show them that they did not have to sit idly by, waiting for funding and materials, but could instead reach out to their community, find people of particular skills, learn from them, and make their own book! To show them that this was possible, that is exactly what they did during their week long training.

The 73 teachers were split into groups. Each group decided what they wanted to write a book on, what education level they were targeting, spent a couple of days researching the topic (going to meet and speak with the local clay-pot makers or the blacksmith etc…) and then wrote up what they learned. This exercise gave them a sense of empowerment and showed them that there was already a wealth of knowledge within their communities.

Kid and Katie M reading book on malaria, made by teachers at Bo FoSL Teacher Training 5At the end of the week there were 15 finished books with the following subjects:

  • Common Diseases that Affect Children
  • The Unprotected Water Well
  • The Making of Gari
  • The Buying and Selling of Agricultural Products
  • Baby Growth Food
  • Garbadge Collection in Bo City
  • Malaria is a Dangerous Disease
  • Science and Indigenous Technology: Charcoal Production
  • Pa Kanu Needs to Support his Children: Aluminum Pot Making
  • Making Gara Cloths
  • Pa Ngoka the Distiller Need Money to Pay School Fees
  • Joe’s Journey
  • Teenage Pregnancy in School
  • Blacksmiths Workshop

Our team was so impressed with the final results we wanted copies for our pupils. Fortunately, the facilitators of the workshop had scanned each book and made electronic copies as well. So, we bought a CD of the books (in the form of a donation to FOSL). We are planning on putting the information onto our server. That way, all 100 children will have access to these wonderful books!

Although we felt slightly awkward presenting our technologically advanced computers at a workshop that was targeting the feeling of paralysis felt by teachers who don’t have adequate school supplies, Drs. Frazier were able to eloquently connect the work that we were doing with the work that the teachers were doing in the workshop. They also used our project as an example of the benefits and potentials of grant writing. Their words were very inspirational and we were very happy to have participated in such a great event.

If you would like more information on FOSL, please visit their website at: http://www.fosalone.org



Do they have a fourth of July in Sierra Leone? by Katie McCarthy
July 9, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: Team Info

Yes, and they celebrate it.

Did you ever take that quiz with trick questions, like “Do the British have a fourth of July?”? I remember taking the test to big family gatherings and laughing at my unwitting cousins and relatives when I was able to trick them with the quiz. While the answer to the fourth of July question is yes for any country (of course a country has a fourth of July, they might not celebrate it as a holiday), in Kenema, Sierra Leone, the fourth of July was celebrated in a fun, if not traditional, method.

Last year, the Tulane students and many friends celebrated in a somewhat traditional way – we gathered together, played games, ate a lot of food, and lit things on fire (although our items included lighters and turning on our cell phone flashlights). So, the stage was set for a grander operation this year, as several Sierra Leoneans were already aware of our strange traditions.

The day started out rather mundanely – we woke at 8am, got breakfast, and planned to rest before working on OLPC projects. But shortly into our rest, we were interrupted when the kids came to remind us of a promise made earlier in the week. Masa, one of the kids who lives near the Pastoral Centre, said she would teach us how to make butterscotchy, a treat we enjoyed last year. So, we hiked down to their house (just outside the Pastoral Centre grounds) and spent a very enjoyable morning making butterscotchy.

Making Butterscotchy

Making Butterscotchy

As happens often, our presence created some attention and before the morning was over, we had accrued quite a crowd of neighborhood children. After distributing the butterscotchy appropriately (and sneaking several pieces to small children), we headed back to our rooms to work on the XS, the server OLPC gave us, but not before promising to return to join them for lunch after we were finished work. We continued diligently to figure out the server, solving many problems and probably creating more, and returned to Masa’s house (and Alhaji’s, Pabai’s, and Mama’s) for a lunch of groundnut soup, or ‘niki soup-wi’ (Mende). After lunch, we played games with the kids – football, Miss Mary Mack, the hand slap game, and sat around. The kids, remembering it was American Independence Day, started singing songs they would sing during their independence day. Somehow, the games morphed into a full blown celebration including music, dancing, singing and other performances. All the kids got in on the fun and we were the willing audience. The festivities only ended when we had to go to a meeting with DCI.

Now, if you’re keeping track, it’s a Saturday evening. Needless to say, we weren’t particularly thrilled to attend a meeting at 6pm on a Saturday. But, like the rest of the day, it turned out to be a pleasant and productive event. DCI was having a country-wide planning meeting with their country director and each headquarters’ program managers were present. We met with them, discussed our project in greater detail, and let them explore the XOs a little. They were very encouraging and hope to attend some of the events we are planning over the summer. Overall, a productive meeting.

After our meeting, we headed back to the Pastoral Centre, to celebrate. Our celebration included sitting at the bar with Fumba, Augustine and the night guard, making guacamole (yum!), drinking Star beer (not so yum), and enjoying the cooling rain.

While we missed out on fireworks, weren’t able to eat gumbo or hot dogs, and definitely were not surrounded by red, white and blue, the day turned out to be one of the best celebrations I’ve had. Katie R has said (usually after eating a particularly delicious meal) that she would be perfectly happy to die at that moment. I would describe that feeling more as perfect contentment and happiness, wanting nothing more from the world at that moment. That’s how I felt last night, sitting in the bar at the Pastoral Centre, eating guacamole, listening to the rain, in Sierra Leone. Perfectly happy!

Katie M



Getting a modem to work… by jamesko
July 6, 2009, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Technology

One of the goals of this project is to provide internet access for the XOs. However, trying to get it has thus far been quite an adventure. When the team first arrived, they spoke with the telecommunications company SierraTel, and they told us that they could provide a modem and internet no problem, but that we would have to wait because it would take them a day or two to get the modem. While we were waiting, tragically, one of their employees died. The staff told us that they would be mourning for the next few days and that we should return on Thursday. When we went back on Thursday, they informed us that they were still mourning and that we should check back the following day to see if they are still mourning or not. So we did. And they were.

The following week we spoke with them again and they told us that they would be unable to get the modem for us and that we needed to get it from Freetown ourselves (but that they could help with any difficulties we might have while setting it up). Fortunately, this was at the same time I was flying into Sierra Leone and Katie and I could pick up the modem when she came to get me. We went to SierraTel and got the modem fine. However, when we went back to the guesthouse, set up the modem and tried it, it didn’t work. We went back to SierraTel and Natasha, our agent, fixed it (it was a simple fix, changing the network type from EVDO to CDMA). Apparently, in Freetown EVDO should be used but while in Kenema we would need to use CDMA.

Since we got to Kemema one of two things has happened while trying to connect to the internet. (1) the modem gets no signal, or (2) we get a signal, but when we try to connect, we get an error message that says that “the remote computer is not responding”.

Last Friday we spent several hours at the SierraTel office here in Kenema on the phone with “tech support” from Freetown. Our efforts were fruitless. The man in charge in Kenema, Ellis, told us that on Monday a man named Christopher would be back and he was the expert who could fix our problem.

Today is Monday. This morning we got a call from Ellis and he informed us that Christopher will not be coming back until Friday. Damn…

So here is where we need some help from all you tech savvy readers out there. As we wait for Christopher, we are trying to answer the following two questions:

(1) SierraTel personnel tell us that only 3 or so computers can get internet at once on the modem that we are using; while in Rwanda for the training, our team was told that due to the server and access points we would be able to provide internet to all of the computers no problem. Who is right?

(2) This is not really a question, and we will know more once we get the modem to work, but does anyone have any advice or comments for us as we prepare to connect the modem to the server? Has anyone tried using this modem before (modem details below)? The setup will be different from the one that our team has done before (in Rwanda, the modem was plugged into the wall, where as our modem here is plugged in using a USB connection.)

For anyone who thinks that they may be able to help us, we would really appreciate your input. Details of the modem that we bought are as follows and photos are below:

4th of July and Beyond 083

General

Huawei Technologies CO., Ltd.

EC266  USB Modem

CDMA2000 1x

EV-DO Rev. A

Key Features

High speed wireless access with CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev. A

Send and receive E-mails with large attachments

Compatible with laptop and pc

Plug and play

Receive diversity

Requires

Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows VISTA

128 MB RAM or above

100MB available hard disk space

USB interface

Specifications

CDMA2000 1xRTT 800/1900MHz

CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev. 0 800/1900MHz

CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev. A 800/1900MHz



Customs by jamesko
July 6, 2009, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Logistics

The ball is rolling. And now, the waiting game…

This post is a continuation of “XOs Please…”.

So after my arrival, Katie R and I spent a couple of days in Freetown to try and resolve the Customs issue, as well as pick up a modem from the head SierraTel office (per the office in Kenema’s instructions). Our… “adventures” with the modem will be saved for a future blog.

So why have we been having problems getting our laptops released?

Although his intentions were not malicious, our in-country contact unfortunately tried to tackle the complex shipping and customs process solo, without communicating with the appropriate DCI personnel (their Logistics and Operations Manager). As a result, what he thought was a duty-waiver form, was in fact not, and what he confidently assured us was taken care of, wasn’t.

As of a week ago, our team, customs and DCI were seeing three different situations: our team was under the impression that all appropriate paperwork had been filled out; Customs was appropriately imposing a duty fee (as we didn’t have the correct duty-waiver form); and DCI was in the dark about the whole thing.  It took hours of digging and probing the agents at the DHL and our shipment files, along with the help of the staff at the DCI headquarters office in Freetown, to bring this whole situation to light.

Where did that leave us?

After discovering what had gone wrong, there was still work to do. The DHL employee told us that we would need to pay Le 500,000 (about $150) to the National Revenue Association (NRA) as a duty waiver fee , and that we had to write a letter to some Commissioner (which he graciously helped us get started on) and bring them to him the following day.  So, at 9am the following morning, we showed up with our letter and money only to then be told that the Le 500,000 was the NRA fee and that the DHL agent himself would need Le 300,000 (about $90) for “documentation and acceleration”.  When we (naturally) objected to paying additional fees beyond the previous quote and pressed the DHL man for further explanation, our friend from DCI stepped in to help elucidate, succinctly and clearly, why it was necessary.  “What he is trying to say,” our DCI rep explained, “is that this is Sierra Leone…” (What we heard: The Le 300,000 was for DHL and to grease the palms of the people whose signature we would need if we want to get our laptops before the end of the summer).

It was a classic bait and switch, but at least it was one step closer to the liberation of our laptops.

As of Friday, our paperwork was just about complete and duty waiver almost granted.  We expect the rest to go through today, which means that the laptops will be free to go and on their way… to Freetown?  DHL has been trying to convince us on more than one occasion that, once our shipment is released, we will have to pick it up from their office in Freetown and transport it to Kenema ourselves because they only have the resources to transport small packages all the way to Kenema… even though the receiving address in the contract is in Kenema (not Freetown)… and even though DHL actually has a functioning office in Kenema… and even though there were two big painted yellow DHL vans outside the office that would have plenty of space…

We were told we would be getting the final signature today (Monday) and receiving the laptops sometime later this week. So now we’re waiting with our fingers crossed…



Hit the Ground Running by Katie McCarthy
June 26, 2009, 4:55 am
Filed under: Teaching

First Days in Kenema 049Chelsea, Katie R and I arrived in Sierra Leone less than a week ago (as I’m writing, we arrived almost 5 days ago). Already, we have met several times with our partner organization, Defence for Children International (DCI); been introduced to various partners and stakeholders (including the Kenema reps for the ministries of Education and Social Welfare and the local police); participated in a partner organizations meeting; set the tentative schedule for training of trainers and the children’s classes; and plan to start our TOT sessions tomorrow morning. Whew!

All of this was possible because of DCI. While OLPCorps has been criticized for sending naïve college students out into the African development wilderness, it’s important to remember that a qualifying factor for deployment selection was partnership with and support from a local non-governmental organization. And, we were very lucky to have found and partnered with such a collaborative, welcoming, competent, and DEDICATED group. The project coordinators, social workers and interns work together with a shared mission of protecting and bettering the lives of children. The staff also recognizes the value of computer and IT skills, and they have worked to incorporate them into their programs. One of the reasons we thought of DCI when applying to OLPCorps was because they had set up a computer lab and initiated training for youth. The program was so popular that they added additional classes and still had to turn students away.

DCI is very invested in the project. They welcomed us graciously into their organization, pulling out all stops to make this program work. Before we arrived, they contacted various child protection agencies with which to collaborate and decided that, since this project was just a pilot, they wanted it to affect as many communities as possible (since the number of children affected is limited). In collaboration with their partners and community leaders, they developed a list of vulnerable children who should benefit from the program. The list includes children from their projects (helping children that are in the justice system, including both victims and perpetrators) in addition to children from their partner organizations: the Blind School (the children are not blind; they lead blind family members around to beg for money), Ben Hirsh (an organization that caters to street children and orphans), and other local community groups.

Thus far, we have not met the children who will benefit from the project. However, we plan to “interview” each child at the start of the program, asking them about their computer experience, what they want to be when they grow up, if they like school, what is their favorite subject, what is their favorite game, etc. This will serve as a method to get to know each child and as a way to evaluate the program quantitatively, as we hope to have post-deployment interviews as well.

Our teachers are two DCI employees, both of whom have technical experience. Paul is the IT instructor for DCI’s computer lab, and Barrie is a social worker with computer experience. Both show an avid interest to learn more about the XO. In addition to our two main teachers, DCI has enlisted each partner organization or community to send a representative to learn how to use the XO and volunteer during the classes. This person will act as an advocate and a local resource for the children they represent. Because many of the people we’re training already have some technological experience, we hope they will be more willing and excited to participate in learning this new system. From a brief introduction to the laptop, that seems a good assumption.

Most people that we’ve talked to are excited about the possibility of extending the program, so they are invested in ensuring its success. We’ve already had several adults ask us to buy more laptops so their children can benefit. They see the immense value and opportunity presented by the laptops. DCI and others we have met want to make this program work, so that more children can receive laptops. They are already imagining a time when there is one laptop per child in Sierra Leone. It’s very clear that they genuinely care about improving the lives of children.