Sunday, March 8, 2009

Back in Charleston

Saturday night the team made it back safely to Charleston, S.C. after a long and exciting week. Only seven of our bags were lost, but we now they made it to Washington D.C. so hopefully sometime today (Sunday) they will make it downtown.

In the next few days we will go through all the pictures and videos from the trip and continue to upload them to the blog.

Thank you to everyone who has been following along and we will continue to post with news and pictures from Africa. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Last Lab!

Today (Thursday), the Tech For Africa team finished setting up our last lab at the Universite Catholique d’ Afrique Centrale in Yaounde. The lab consists of 11 computers, a digital camera and one laser printer.

The University was founded in 1989 and today has over 1,400 students. Many of the students are studying business administration, like our SIFE team. Before today, the campus had only four working computers with Internet. Now they have 15, more than tippling the previous number. The students said they would use the computers to research information for classes and to pursue their masters.

After we set up the lab, we had the official handing-over of the computers to the school, followed by a tour of the campus and lunch with some of the students. After lunch, we held a presentation about entrepreneurship and business ethics and how the students can use the computers to learn more about both.

The students were grateful for the computers and had many good questions about our presentations including how to get a loan for a business and what kind of interest rates there were as well as how faith affected business ethics.

After the end of our presentation, we left to meet with Ambassador Janet E. Garvey, the United States Ambassador to Cameroon. She welcomed us to the embassy and for the first time in almost a week, we were on U.S. soil and felt air conditioning, a welcome change to the local climate.

Our session with the Ambassador lasted over an hour, during which time we discussed our project, how it can help the country of Cameroon, what role the embassy has in the Cameroonian government and what opportunities would be available to students who wished to work with the embassy and foreign affairs. No outside cameras were allowed in the embassy but after our meeting we had a group picture with Ambassador Garvey, which should be posted on their website: in the next couple of days.

Although all the labs have been set up, and tonight is our last night in Cameroon, we are not yet done! Tomorrow morning we will pack and head back to the Universite Catholique d’ Afrique Centrale to meet one-on-one with some students and talk about how they can best use the computers and keep in touch with us in the U.S. Then we will leave for Douala and a 11:55 p.m. flight to Zurich and on to America!

Thank you to the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde for sending us this picture of the team with Ambassador Garvey.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Set up of Lab #2 & Entrepreneurship Presentations

After a full day in Foumban on Monday, the team traveled to the Université des Montagnes (UDM) to setup the second of three labs. UDM was founded in 2000 and is a medical university with over 950 students. We set up seven computers, all with Internet access provided by MTN, a local Internet and wireless company.

After physically setting up the computers in one of their labs, we gave a presentation on entrepreneurship and online resources for research and education. The presentation was held in a packed lecture hall with a capacity of over 200 people. A local television station came to report on the project and film the presentations.

After the presentations, the school’s President and the city Mayor gave speeches thanking us for the computers and the hard work of our project. The student’s also thanked us in both English and French before taking a group picture.

The next day (Wednesday), we returned to the school for a tour and to speak one-on-one with the students about the computers and the project. At first, many students did not know why we had given their school, of all the schools in Africa, computers and what we expected them to use them for. We explained that entrepreneurship could apply to anyone, not just big businesses. Many students were studying to become doctors but did have guaranteed work upon graduation. We explained that with the computers and resources we gave them, they could research how to start a private practice and find out where in Cameroon doctors are most needed.

After about an hour of discussion the students said they felt very confident that they could use the computers to help further their carrier and said that before we came they knew very little to nothing at all about entrepreneurship and how it could benefit them. They then gave each of us two magazines about medicine that they use at school and we gave them 1 GB USB drives.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will setup the last lab in Yaoundé. At dinner tonight we meet with one of the students who is studying Business Administration and said that at her school they only have four computers with Internet available to the students.

The trip to this point has been a busy experience with a full day of work everyday and with two days left, we plan to get as much in as possible. Traveling by bus has allowed us to see the whole country and meet many people. We will all miss the country when we leave but are very happy that our work has paid off with greater rewards than any of us could have ever imagined.

Monday, March 2, 2009

First Lab in Foumban & Eco Friendly Tools

Today (Monday), we set up our first lab in a school in Foumban. We arrived early in the morning to set up the computers, the Internet and printers. This lab had four computers with one laser printer and fax machine that all computers were hooked up to via a wireless network. MTN, which is the local Internet provider, came to establish an Internet connection on every computer. By noon, all four computers had Internet connection and were connected to the printer. As well as setting up the computers, we also hang a sign in the lab with the address for our help and support website (Seen on left).

At noon, Shannon gave a presentation on how the use the computers and the programs that come installed on them, which include Microsoft Office and Google Talk. This presentation was entirely in French and was given to a room full of students who will use the computers.

After Shannon’s presentation, we went down the street to the Sultan’s Palace. We were given a tour of the museum and history of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the palace but the artifacts were stunning and dated as far back as the early 1300’s. At the palace, we were each formally introduced to the Prime Minster to the King as well as Queen Pmsa. After the tour, we had lunch with Queen Pmsa at the palace.

After lunch, we returned to the school and Kat and Elise gave a speech on entrepreneurship. For this presentation, the room was packed with over 120 people and was translated to French by Dr. Desplaces. The presentation stressed what makes a successful entrepreneur and how the computers and Internet can provide anyone in that room with access to everything they need to succeed.

After all the presentations were over, there was a reception outside. During this reception, the Sultan of Fumban paid us a visit to see the work we had done. He was very impressed with the lab, our websites, presentations and the overall goal of our project. His presence was a great honor and a sign that our project is making a large impact on the country. Also, after the presentation, we trained one of the Queen's on how to find eco-friendly agricultural techniques.

Tomorrow we will set up the computer for our next lab, but the official handing over of the computers will take place on Wednesday with a formal reception.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day 2 in Africa

Today (Sunday), was a full day of exploring and learning. In the morning, we went for a tour of the plantation owned by our host, Patrick Desplaces. We saw where he grew coffee, pepper and other various fruits. The coffee he grew was the same coffee we had with our breakfast. The tour included meeting local children who attended a school built on the plantation. The children were excited to meet us and even ran behind the van for awhile after we left.

After the tour, we got to work finishing installing all of the necessary software for the computers we will set-up tomorrow in Fumbam. During lunch we meet with teachers and doctors from Fumbam who will be receiving the first computers. Over lunch we discussed what technologies the students of Cameroon already have access to, what they hope to gain from it and what we as team, can do to help them.

We learned that the students hope to use the computers mainly for communication and research & education. We asked about what entrepreneurship meant to the students of Fumbam and we found that their definition was much different from ours. In Cameroon, most believe that to have a high salary and a secure job, they should become a police office, judge or other public service jobs. We hope to show them other ways to become successful and to further their education through the use of the Internet and other computer programs.

Access to the Internet will allow students to research things that can benefit them today in ways that we did not imagine when we were first designing the program. One example would be better irrigation techniques for farming. It will also allow them to discover new music and art to those who are interested in it and to learn new languages. In the future, they hope to learn how to buy and sell goods online as well.

Most of the students who will get to use the computers have had some exposure to computers before, but rarely have they had one-on-one time with them. In a school with 3,000 students, there are 20 computers. The need is so great that some are even using computers which run Windows 95. One man from Fumabm said “I saw on a T.V. that people were destroying old computers in Japan. That night I could not sleep. We need them so badly here, yet people around the world are destroying them. It is better to have something than nothing.”

After lunch we surprised everyone with an Obama t-shirt, which was received with great excitement. Regardless of political views, in Africa, Obama being elected president gives everyone hope that one day they to can rise to the top and become greatly successful which is the aim of this project.

Tomorrow we will officially deliver the first computers and hold our first training session. It will signify, officially, the first true result of a project that a year and a half ago was only an idea half way around the world.

Tomorrow our project will also be featured in local media in Cameroon including the following site:

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Arrival In Cameroon

After a day and a half of travel, the Technology For Africa team arrived safely in Cameroon! We were meet at the airport by Patrick Desplaces and taken to his home for dinner and to meet our hosts.

Today (Saturday) we are configuring all of the computers with the proper programs as well as finishing our lesson plans and presentations for the students. And of course all of this will be in French.

Despite the language barrier, the team is communicating well the locals, some of which speak a little English but most do not. Hand signals and basic French seem to be the best way to communicate.

This afternoon we will leave for Founban on our bus, which will be about a five hour ride where we will be for four days and setting up the first lab. The team is looking forward to meeting the students and make the most of our trip.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Landed in Zurich

It's 3:29 a.m. Charleston time and 9:29 a.m. Zurich time and the team is enjoying a breakfast at the Zurich airport.

Two flights down, one to go and so far, so good. We had some fun taking a few tourist pictures and want to share them with everyone. With every flight, excitement builds and the idea of spreading entrepreneurship globally is becoming more of reality.

If there's anything you, the reader, wants to see on the blog, let us know and we'll try to get a picture for you!

Thanks for checking in!