From executive ICT support to helping people use laptops for the first time: my time as a Vodafone Foundation Instant Network volunteer.
To mark ITU’s Girls in ICT Day on 28 April 2016, Kelly-Tenille Mathurin, a member of the ICT support team working for Vodafone Group, shares her experiences working as a volunteer deploying the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network.
On Monday 14 March 2016, I left the UK for my first mission as a Vodafone Foundation Instant Network volunteer. We were dispatched to Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. I was both excited and anxious but also very much looking forward to it.
Our aim was to set up two of the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Schools and train local teachers in how to use the technology. My day job is providing ICT support to senior executives so this was a completely new experience.
On Thursday, we visited the camp ahead of training. What struck me about the camp was the size and number of tents lined up with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) logo. Nyarugusu is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, home to more than 160,000 refugees. I was told that some 50,000 Burundians that had arrived in 2015 were living in tents, and that some of the other inhabitants had lived at the camp for as long as 20 years.
Digital ‘school in a box’: ICT basics
Friday was our first official day of training. The Instant Classroom is a ‘school in a box’ containing tablets, a projector and other equipment needed to set up a classroom.
We met with 20 teachers from the Amani Primary School, only one of whom had used a computer before. None had ever used a tablet or heard of the Internet.
When we asked what they would like find out about in the world using the Internet, one asked to see the president of Tanzania. When the picture appeared on the projector there was a lot of excitement in the room – I got the impression this was the first time many were seeing the president.
Each teacher was given a tablet and taught the basics, such as how to swipe, tap and navigate the device. We then left them to play around with them. A few teachers soon found the music app. A couple of the teachers also quickly learned to take selfies! After lunch, we showed them how to use a laptop, connect to the Internet, and set up the projector and audio device.
The next day, we were able to visit the two schools at the refugee camp.
The children were ‘so appreciative’
All of the children were very pleased, excited and so appreciative. Although few could speak English, it was clear that they were relieved that the kit had arrived and that we were there to help them learn. That brought tears to my eyes.
After the weekend we returned to the schools and were pleased that the groups remembered how to set the kit up themselves, including logging on to the laptop, and connecting the projector and audio system. I then worked with the teachers, showing them basic keyboard skills, such as typing a capital letter. Someone even asked how to make a space in between words.
On our final day of training we watched the teachers deliver a lesson to the children using the Instant Classroom. As a team we were very impressed, considering that only a few days earlier most of them had never used a computer! It was a great feeling to know that they had learned so much within two-and-a-half days.
I learned and saw a lot in such a short space of time. This was an amazing experience for me and one I will never forget! Even though our days were long, as well as emotionally and physically draining, it was all worth it.
I am very pleased and honoured that I was chosen to go on this mission. I want to do more to help, but sometimes do not know where to start – I think my whole team has that feeling. For now I will keep volunteering to help the Vodafone Foundation projects.
*Learn more about Girls in ICT Day!