TIV Update: February 2011
During the summer of 2010, I (Ben Smith) returned to Togo to check on the status of the Internet Café project.
When I arrived back in the village of Vo Pedakondji, I was delighted to see the progress that had been made by the local partners. I was able to witness firsthand the development of this concept into a fully functioning Internet Café in a remote African village, full of children eager to learn.
The Café had undergone drastic changes since the last time I was in the village: It had gone from being in a temporary structure with limited capabilities into its permanent home; a purpose built construction, with fully functioning facilities and with a full time staff member dedicated to helping the children. I was extremely impressed by the quality and professionalism of all aspects of the operation and a little overcome – the local partners with the help of the Global Giving funding had clearly done a great job at delivering in the intent of the program, against all of the challenges presented in this remote environment.
Upon entering the Café for the first time I was met with the usual smiles and welcomes from some of the children I had met during my previous visit – but I also noticed how focused they all were on their work and by the how more comfortable and confident they all seemed around the technology – a long way from the wary intimidation with which they first approached these strange screens!. On further engagement I was struck by how quickly their skills had developed, many of them proved to be extremely competent at navigating spreadsheets and word processing etc.
I was sure that a large part of this progress was due to having a dedicated teacher, Mr. Edorh Ghislain. Edorh lives full time at the Café, and is responsible for all of the equipment, facilities and teaching and running of the program. I was pleased to see the acceptance from the children, who were constantly coming up to him for help and advice throughout my visit.
After the first full day back in the village I felt very happy that the village people had embraced the program so enthusiastically – they seemed very proud of the Internet Café and it seemed a highly valued part of the fabric of village life.
I spent the rest of my visit helping the children and working with the local partners on how to best sustain and improve the program moving forward.
It was great to visit and see what was considered a “crazy idea” come to fruition in this remote village in Africa. To see the impact on the lives of these children and how they had progressed was truly impressive. We had at least helped a few children cross the digital divide in some way.
This update includes some updated photographs from this recent trip, including pictures of the finished Café. Enjoy.
The next phase of our program is to begin offering Internet access to adults in the region for a small fee to help offset ongoing expenses. This is predicated on securing improved network connectivity (Hopefully by April this year).
Additional donations will be used to fund the ongoing expenses of the program and to expand it too ever more children in the region.
Thanks to anyone who has donated money, it is greatly appreciated and is being put towards a fantastic cause. If there are any questions regarding the program, or the Café in general, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
The children of Vo Pedakondji and the Vogan region thank you!
As Lorraine peered over the shoulder of Grace, a 14 year-old student in Vo Pedakondji, she asked what the student was learning in their daily computer classes. Grace explained that she was learning to create balance sheets and that she was currently using Excel to find averages. I found myself flabbergasted by the skills that Grace had developed during Togo Internet Village’s first year of classes. Here I was, a 22-year-old child of the internet generation, and I did not know most of the formulas that Grace was tying out in various Excel cells.
Throughout the room other students were busy at work completing various computer exercises that had been assigned to them: making text boxes and recreating images they were given. One student was even writing a cover letter! The teacher, Mr. Edorh Ghi Slain explained his gratitude and excitement about the Internet Café that had been built and computers that had been donated by Togo Internet Village. Without their contribution, he said, the children in this rural village would not have had access to computers all together. However, because of these computer classes, students are gaining skills that they will need in the future to be more competitive in applying to University or entering the job market!
Not only was the Internet Café a tribute to modern technology, but I consider it to be one of the many miracles of the internet technology that through international relationships that have been formed on and off GlobalGiving, Togo Internet Village is able to provide computer classes for 263 students in rural Togo!
Alexis and four other In-the-Field Travelers are visiting Togo as well as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. They'll be visiting more than 30 GlobalGiving projects in the next month. Follow their adventures at http://itfwa.wordpress.com/.
Update: We are please to report that first permanent Togo Internet Village Cafe officially opened in the village of Pedakondji in November of 2009. This coincided with the appointment of our first full time computer skills teacher, Mr. Edorh Gislain, who commenced classes on the 11th of November.
Local children's interest in the Cyber Cafe has been extraordinary, with around 300 children trained in the first month. There has also been a number of addition school teachers trained in the Cyber cafe as well during the first few months to augment the full time resources.
Our intent is to provide free services to all of the children in the area. However, we are beginning to subsidize the ongoing running costs by offering limited availability to the adults in the village for a small fee.
We greatly appreciate everybody's donations and the ongoing support of our local community partners and particularly the schools of the surrounding villages.
We are continuing to look for ways to expand the program to reach out to more children.
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