On the 22nd July 2014, Camara attended the official opening of our first solar-powered computer lab in Gros Morne, Haiti. As part of Camara’s ongoing partnership with UCD Volunteers Overseas, it is intended that this facility will become the first of many new e-Learning centres to be integrated into the region. This unveiling is the result of a Memorandum of Association signed over two months ago in University College Dublin by Maureen O’Donnell, Camara’s European and Caribbean Service Manager, and Caroline O’Connor, A representative of UCDVO. The memorandum outlined a plan to introduce a sophisticated solar-powered computer lab with an accompanying teacher training programme to the area; a plan that has now come to fruition.

UCDVO and Camara Haiti celebrate at the opening of the computer lab at L'Ecole Presbyterale Jesus-Marie in Gros Mourne

UCDVO and Camara Haiti celebrate at the opening of the computer lab at L’Ecole Presbyterale Jesus-Marie in Gros Mourne

Camara successfully installed the twenty refurbished computers, while also providing a rudimentary training course for the teachers involved. UCDVO have shown their support by administering continuous, valuable teacher-training to staff for the duration of their stay. In the coming weeks, Camara will begin work on a specialised training manual for teachers. It will be bilingual: available through both French and Haitian Creole. It is hoped this will continue to support staff and schools in the region. This venture has been part of a collaboration between the two organisations that has been ongoing since 2009. An inaugural project in Morogoro, Tanzania was expanded gracefully to incorporate multiple schools and an extensive computer training programme.

New solar powered computer lab in use

New solar powered computer lab in use

The launch included representatives from Camara, student volunteers from UCDVO, Sr. Patricia Dillion RJM and the extended academic community of L’Ecole Presbyterale Jesus-Marie in Gros Mourne, Haiti. Sr. Patricia Dillion, or ‘Sr. Pat’ as she is affectionately referred to, has been the main advocate of this undertaking. Every year, she cordially welcomes the incoming student volunteers from UCDVO into the local community. They, in return, arrive full of enthusiasm, eager to begin their work (many even go so far as to learn some Haitian Creole for their trip). It is rare to find young, short-term volunteers who take to their new duties with such zeal.

UCDVO are already involved in many development projects in the greater Gros Morne area, and Camara are thrilled to have launched this new project in partnership with them. The installation of this solar-powered computer lab is an exciting new opportunity, allowing us to focus on one of the central issues impeding access to ICT in Haiti – that of electricity. Electricity is something of an exclusive resource in Haiti: quite expensive and generally unavailable outside of urbanised areas. Solar power offers an elegant, renewable alternative.

We look forward to further collaboration with UCD Volunteers Overseas in the near future