A pupil at Jesus and Mary School in Gros Morne Haiti learning how to type using the computers installed by UCDVO and Camara in July 2014. Photographer Beth Ratke

A pupil at Jesus and Mary School in Gros Morne Haiti learning how to type using the computers installed by UCDVO and Camara in July 2014. Photographer Beth Ratke

Following on last year’s successful solar lab partnership, yesterday Maureen O’Donnell, Camara’s Head of European and Caribbean Services and Caroline O’Connor, Manager of UCD Volunteers Overseas signed a Memorandum of Understanding to install Camara’s next generation of low energy solar powered computer labs in Gros Morne, Haiti.

Last year’s project in Gros Morne was Camara’s and UCDVO’s first partnership involving solar powered computer labs. Solar has provided a sustainable solution for schools to access ICT education in Gros Morne. Previously, the schools did not have any form of electricity and it was too expensive to consider running computer labs off generators.

This year, Camara and UCDVO are improving upon that model by implementing a low-energy networked computer lab to reduce the cost of the solar installation while still providing increased access to education. The lab is designed as a virtual environment using energy-efficient Raspberry Pi computers as thin clients, low-energy monitors, and servers that have been specifically designed for use in solar environments.  Both last year’s and this year’s lab include Camara’s Edubuntu literacy and numeracy skill building content in Creole, French, and English, and Camara Haiti also provides enhanced teacher training designed to support both mainstream and special needs students.

The two organisations have worked together since 2009, originally on a project in Morogoro, Tanzania to collect, refurbish and transport computers from Ireland to develop computer education programmes in the region. The initial project expanded over time to include multiple schools and an extended computer training programme.

UCDVO are already actively engaged in community development projects in the Gros Morne area of Haiti, and as part of this project are providing a team of 25 volunteers to train teachers and conduct research on the community and educational impact of solar systems.

Camara’s partnership with UCDVO has offered a unique opportunity to address a fundamental problem with access to ICT in education – electricity. Electricity in Haiti is incredibly expensive and not widely available outside of urban areas. This new low energy lab in Gros Morne will improve upon the original model implemented last year, providing greater access to an affordable clean energy alternative.

“We cannot thank UCDVO enough for providing these computers for our school. It has opened up so many different opportunities for people around our area.” – Religious of Jesus Mary, Haiti – UCDVO’s local partner organisation, March 2015

For more information about the Camara and UCDVO partnership in Haiti contact media@camara.org.