Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Updates from Cameroon

I can't believe my stay in Cameroon is halfway over! Buea has really started to feel like home and time has flown by. I've gotten to know wonderful international volunteers and lots of local Cameroonians. We've spent beautiful weekends in Limbe and Bamenda and many a night talking on our porch or eating delicious fish on the street. The main programs volunteers participate in during the summer is "school on wheels" which drives us out to nearby villages to provide academic enrichment for the kids. The kids here are so energetic and eager to learn. One of my favorite memories comes from the kids right on my street: After hiking Mt. Cameroon (which was hard but gorgeous), I had left my very gross, muddy hiking boots on the porch so as not to get the house dirty. I left them apparently a night to long, because one morning I woke up and they had been taken. I pinned a sign to our clothes line asking for them back and we told all the neighborhood children they were missing. Within four hours a pack of children showed up at our door, with one a little taller than the rest carrying my boots above his head cleaned! I don't think there are many places in the world where that would happen, and it brought a smile to my face to see such a small but meaningful act of goodness.
My partner from Penn, Mike, and I have also been working on examining the One Laptop Per Child installation. Progress has been slow on that front, and patience is definitely a value I am working on cultivating here. So far we have located only 26 of the 100 laptops. I am hopeful that they can still be found, but getting access to keys to check different places has been a challenge. It seems that the computers have been used at the school in computer class, and while this doesn't fit with OLPC's intended use for them it is good they are at least being used. The kids are familiar with them, always stopping by our house to ask to play, however teachers are not. This week we began computer training for abut 8 teachers which is exciting to really be contributing something concrete. The head teacher asked us to do basic computer training so we have started with the PC and microsoft word skills and are phasing in the XO laptops. We will also be creating a training video for the laptops as the manual can be difficult to read.
Some teachers didn't know how to turn on the computer, so we really had to start with the basics and think carefully about every little part of the computer as we are so used to them. We are trying to focus our training on ways the computer can be used to enhance their teaching and provide resources, however in general computer training is in vast demand as many jobs are popping up for people who can use windows.
We will continue training for the next few days and then head north for a 9 day trip to see some other parts of the country. I am very excited to explore more parts of this beautiful country.

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