Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bartica Grant Wrap Up!


In late February of this year, the Bartica Learning Resources Center (BLRC) began its work on a new computer lab.  Negotiations with a local retailer for the purchase and installation of four computers at cost were completed. By early March, all four computers were successfully installed and put into regular use and community members in Bartica have commented on how helpful it has been to have a place to use Internet and excellent-working computers at no cost.

The two librarians who run the BLRC, Angela Douglas and Naomi Harris-Benn, have been very pleased with the project.  In late June, both Angela and Naomi attended a national workshop to discuss ways in which resource centers can offer more to their communities and to the classrooms they help support.  This was hosted by World Bank’s Education for All/Fast Track Initiative (EFA/FTI) which helps allocate government and international aid funding to resource centers all over Guyana.  Not only did both librarians receive more support than they expected, but they were given certain liberties to act outside of the restraints of the Ministry of Education (MOE).  This is a great thing to hear as good education opportunities are often neglected in Bartica due to partisan politics and tight control from bureaucrats.

Additionally, the work that has been accomplished over the past four years at the BLRC has earned the title of “Best Resource Center in Guyana” by many officials in and outside of the MOE.  Because of its reputation, Angela and Naomi hosted an open house to those educators and officials attending last month’s workshop.  The day was spent showing off the library and its many functions to members of the MOE, National Center for Educational Resource Development’s (NCERD), and local community leaders.  It was viewed as a great success.

The following are some highlights that have marked local progress with the computer lab since my departure in late April:

Attendance from 3pm-6:30pm has risen steadily as more community members learn about the additional computers, access to Internet, and computer training that has gone on since the middle of March.  Individuals arrive after school and sign up to use one of the new computers or bring their own laptop to use.

On any given week day, a host of computer programs are used at the center –Microsoft Office, Skype, Facebook, Google, email services, typing software, computer games, and Wikipedia to name the most popular. More and more questions are asked as the librarians become more knowledgeable about ICT interface procedures (i.e. how to bookmark a website on Mozilla Firefox).

Tutoring by the librarians in ICT has been very helpful to students and adults who are now regularly visiting the library to use these resources for academic and private use. Computer assignments and researching have increased and adults are using the Internet to apply for jobs and sign up for classes at the University of Guyana.
Seeing more and more patrons use this location to experience, practice, and expand their knowledge of the Information Age has made me really happy.  The BLRC computer lab will continue to be a hub for access to the larger world, therefore offering the means to self-education, current events, and opportunities that open doors through access to global communication and networking.
Bartica Learning Resources Center

It is my opinion that donors to projects like this should know just how their contribution was put into use.  For this reason, I have added segments of the final report submitted to Peace Corps that describe changes made to the original grant submission:

  1. Since the managing of a computer lab puts additional responsibility on the two librarians at the BLRC, it was decided by the BLRC Committee that the amount of computers built be reduced from six to four.  This decision has served the BLRC well.  The amount of people using the center during the afternoon and evening hours has steadily increased.  This increase means more attention focused on the computers and less on the younger students, who come in to read books, play board games, or take part in arts and crafts.  Having four computers at the BLRC has been much more manageable than six.
  2. Money allocated to a contingency fund was rejected by Peace Corps due to the fact that this money could not be monitored regularly after I left Bartica.  In lieu of this decision, the $350 US contingency was instead spent on the following:
a.       A new and better equipped wireless router to aid in the managing of Internet security and Internet use
b.       A web camera for video communication.  This has already been used to communicate with classrooms in Brighton, England
c.       10 educational DVDs and 8 educational IT study books for use with students who want to learn more about computer technology
d.       Printer toner and some compressed air in canisters to help aid with computer maintenance   

The community of Bartica was responsible for 42% of the funding of this project.  The sum of financial contributions from you, the online patron, accounted for 58% of the funding of this project; and this project could not have been completed without the help of those who donated.

This combined effort is what makes the Peace Corps Partnership Program unique in its effort to link people from all over the world who share the desire for charitable and sustainable overseas development.  While it is not the answer to solving our world’s most challenging problems, it is a useful way to begin and to examine where we stand as a global family.

Thank you for your contribution, your time, and your concern.

Sincerest Regards,

Christopher Olin

The Bartica Learning Resource Center
            Tr. Angela Douglas
            Tr. Naomi Harris-Benn

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