We've been working like crazy since my last post and finally the Sissala West Schools Computer Center is open! In the past 6 weeks I (with the help of many of my Ghanaian friends) have bought and transported 16 desktop computers the length of the country, had a ceiling installed, replaced 8 windows, painted the entire classroom and ceiling, bought and transported 6 huge wooden tables and 15 chairs, had an electrician wire the building for power, had the electricity company come and connect power to the building, had a podium built, had a tailor make a projection screen, installed all of the above plus accessories, painted and erected sign boards, developed a job description for and hired an ICT teacher/computer center attendant as well as a night watchman, formed a management board, elected board leadership, passed a board constitution, and spoken at the District Assembly meeting to introduce the center to the public. It has been a quite chaotic and exhausting time but I have loved every moment of it knowing how happy it is going to make these communities and how much so many people will benefit from our efforts.
As promised, I have posted pictures of the process of creating the computer center. They are now appearing as a slide show at the top of this page, but if you would like to see larger images or download them yourself you can just click on the pictures and it should bring you here: http://picasaweb.google.com/luckadamp/SchoolComputerCenter?feat=directlink . I hope you enjoy these pictures and I'll do my best to post some more when I am able.
The person we have hired to operate the computer center is my good friend from Gwollu, Mubaric (or Mystic). He's a great young guy about my age who has completed senior high school but not yet gone on to university. He is extremely knowledgeable about computers (both hardware and software) and he has experience teaching as he was formerly volunteering as an art teacher at the primary school in Gwollu. I will be traveling for the next couple of weeks, so while I am away he will be completing some more software installations on the computers and allowing people to come in and see the center and use the computers free of charge (school is out of session now and will not begin again until mid September). I have purchased all the necessary equipment to connect all of the computers at the center to the internet, but with all the other things going on we did not get time to erect the poles and antennas yet. We will do this as soon as I get back and establish hours of operation for the many local schools and the general public. During school hours, we will develop a schedule so that students from the various schools will cycle into the center in groups of 15 throughout the school day. We will also have operating hours for the general public after school hours and on weekends when community members can use the computers and internet for a fee as well as students for a discounted fee. Mubaric is also developing a syllabus for a computer skills course to be offered to the public at various times and levels (Level 1,2,3, etc. with a certificate to be earned upon completion of each level). All of this will keep Mubaric very busy, but I will be helping him nearly every day until I leave in November and we are also trying to hire an assistant through the National Youth Employment Program, which would help a lot especially once I leave. The whole community seems very excited to have such a great new facility and it excites me to know that the person we have hired to run the place is also very motivated and committed to making the center run effectively.
Tomorrow I will be bringing 3 junior high school girls from Gwollu to a one-week Girls Leadership Camp that some of my Peace Corps colleagues and I have planned. The camp will take place near Wechiau, another town in the Upper West Region. We will be staying in a small village with no electricity or running water along the river where there is a hippo sanctuary. I know my girls are really excited to go and the camp should be a lot of fun! When the camp ends, I'll send my girls back to Gwollu on a bus, but I will have to continue further south to attend our Peace Corps Close of Service Conference. Our conference is in Elmina at a really nice resort (Coconut Grove) on the beach! I'll be there for 3-4 days with the other 40 members of my group who are all also preparing to leave in November (some even earlier). We'll be going over some administrative stuff about finishing up Peace Corps service I know, but I think it is also a chance to celebrate with your group one last time all together. From there I'll go to Accra to buy a few extra things for the computer center and see my 2 best PC buds, Dan and Marcus, leave for good! They have new volunteers that are here to replace them already, so because of the timing they get to finish their service early... and go to the 200th anniversary of Octoberfest without me! Once I leave Gwollu, Peace Corps will not be sending another volunteer here. Although now that we have this computer center, I have been pushing for them to send an ICT teacher to help out. From Accra, I'll rush back to Gwollu to get the computer center on track (and online) just as school is starting.
I think that is about all for now. A BIG THANK YOU, again, to all who have donated to the computer center project! I am especially impressed by the students and faculties of Rick Marcotte Central School in South Burlington, Underhill Central School, and Smilie Elementary School in Bolton, who together, as I have previously mentioned, raised about $3000 for this project. The children of this part of Ghana will be benefiting from and enjoying the center you have all helped to create for many many years to come!
p.s.- I'm now booked to CRUISE home with some friends from Barcelona on November 28th to Puerto Rico December 12th! Anyone wanna meet me in Puerto Rico and hang out for a bit before Christmas? Let me know.... see everyone in December!