Nashville, Tenn. -- A Methodist school in LeVeque, Haiti has been chosen as one of 40 schools in rural Haiti to receive a solar powered computer lab as part of the Haiti Connected Schools (HCS) Program.
The HCS program, created by Inveneo, is one of the largest post-earthquake education-based information and communications technology (ICT) deployments in rural Haiti, providing improved learning tools for teachers, students and local communities. Each school receives a solar-powered computer lab, French language content, access to the Internet and teacher training provided by local Inveneo-trained technicians. This program is supported by Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, HP, Microsoft, Voila Foundation and World Vision. United Methodist Communications created a partnership with Inveneo to support local church volunteer efforts to bring technology tools to developing countries. This partnership helped to connect Inveneo with the Thomas Project, a collaboration of United Methodists and others seeking to empower communities throughout Haiti to become self-supporting and self-sustaining. (The Thomas Food Project of the California-Nevada Annual Conference is working to build a sustainable program for feeding children based on the use of microenterprises.)
"United Methodist Communications joins with United Methodists globally to bring technologies to people in underserved and unserved communities," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of the denomination's global communications agency. "Our partnership with Inveneo provides the church with technical know-how to help engage and empower both the local churches in an area as well as the communities they serve."
"To successfully deploy ICT-based education programs in Haiti, a collaborative approach is needed," said Sybille Fleischmann, Director, Education Solutions at Inveneo. "With The United Methodist Church's commitment and expertise in building and operating critically important schools, and Inveneo's partnership with United Methodist Communications to deliver access to ICTs, it was a perfect fit."
Located one-hour north of Port-au-Prince, the Leveque School is one of four pilot schools in Haiti where the Thomas Project plans to operate community computer centers that not only help students, but also members of the community. The schools were chosen by Eglise Methodiste d'Haiti (EMH), the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and the California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Leveque School represents a suburban model school, while the school in Hinche was chosen because of its remote location; the school in Thomas for its rural location and the school in Petit Goave because of its urban setting.
Leveque's computer center is still a work in progress. The solar panels are in place, the chairs are arranged, technicians have finished installing the computers, and ICT educational specialists are working to instruct teachers on how to use the new technology. However, it will still be a couple of months before the freshly painted classroom will fill with groups of 150 students—first through sixth grade—eager to learn in a new way.
"It's a magical moment when they interact with a computer for the first time. We take technology like this for granted, but the eyes of these kids just light up because they've never seen anything like it," said Steve Elliott, mission team leader for the Cal-Nevada Annual Conference's Haiti Initiative, who is helping to design the curriculum. "From Winnie the Pooh, students learn to punctuate a sentence. From Dora the Explorer, they learn to add and subtract. And from SpongeBob SquarePants, they learn to type their name using a keyboard."
"Computer centers can be a major educational asset, as well as an income producing vehicle that can contribute toward self-sustainability," said Warren McGuffin, Director of Sustainability for the Thomas Project of the California-Nevada Annual Conference.
McGuffin is thinking big when it comes to the computer lab in off hours. There are plans to use it as a cyber café or "mini-Kinko's" offering services like computer classes, printing, scanning, photocopying, Internet access and more. The money raised will be used to buy lunches for the schoolchildren and support the agricultural program of surrounding communities. The Thomas Project has been feeding 200 children daily for 18 months and will begin more feeding programs next year.
Inveneo is a San Francisco-based 501(c)(3) non-profit social enterprise that designs and delivers sustainable computing and broadband to those who need it most in the developing world. Working with NGOs, multilaterals and government organizations, Inveneo and our local ICT partners enable these organizations to better serve people in need, transforming lives through access to education, healthcare, economic opportunity and relief. With projects delivered in 25+ countries, Inveneo and our partners are impacting the lives of over 3 million people in some of the poorest and most challenging regions in the developing world.
About United Methodist Communications
As the communications agency for The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Communications seeks to increase awareness and visibility of the denomination in communities and nations around the globe. United Methodist Communications also offers services, tools, products and resources for communications ministry.