IESC Uganda: Week Two

As part of Intel’s ongoing commitment to improving education through the effective use of technology, Intel’s Education Market Platforms Group (EMPG) launched the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) in September 2009. This program is a short-term service and career development opportunity, for a select group of Intel employees to travel to a developing country to directly support the deployment of Intel-powered classmate PCs. In this blog, Mark Friedman, a senior attorney with Intel Legal, recaps his team’s final week in Uganda.

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IESC Uganda: Week Two by Mark Friedman

Last week, our team of six Intel volunteers – Donna Collins (HR), Ben Silva (Embedded Group), Mike Baker (IT Revenue & Demand Management), Sergio Cascante (IT Operations), Joya Chatterjee (Education Market Platforms Group) and Mark Friedman (Legal) – concluded our two week project with the Intel Education Service Corps outside of Kampala, Uganda. During our stay, Team Kisaboka (“progress” in Luganda) successfully teamed with Eric Morrow from the Maendeleo Foundation to deliver computer training to students using a solar-powered mobile classroom.

On Wednesday, we finished teaching at the Kawempe Youth Center, which is located in a poor area about 10 kilometers outside of Kampala and became our home away from home for much of the trip. We graduated another forty 15-18 year olds who had been trained on computer basics, Microsoft® Word and Excel, and how to use Wikipedia and Google to find information on the internet. The things the students chose to search for were always interesting. As always, we had students looking up their favorite football teams (English premier league is very popular along with the national team called the “Cranes”), and their favorite Ugandan pop stars like Jose Chameleon and Bebe Cool. But sometimes we were surprised. One of the older students immediately looked up “cervical cancer” and started copying the detailed medical drawings into his notebook. When I asked him if he was interested in being a doctor, he said yes and that he was already qualified as a nurse’s aide. Another young woman spent most of her time at the web site of Oxford University, where she dreams of studying some day.

At the concluding graduation ceremony, I gave a very small speech in Luganda (prepared by one of our hosts) that basically said: “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to teach you. I want you to know that your knowledge of computers is already much better than our ability to speak Luganda ever will be!” Afterwards, we shared sodas and local beers with the staff before heading home.

Our drives home were at times interesting. On Monday, we had to take a detour to avoid a political riot. We could see tear gas being fired in the distance, but we were able to avoid the unrest by taking a detour on a back road. Fortunately, we had an excellent driver who kept track of what was going on and knew how to avoid trouble. Also, Uganda is a very civilized place and the political riots were only scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays, so we were able to plan ahead!

On Thursday, we again split into two groups. Ben and I stayed behind at the Maendeleo Foundation’s “training center” and taught eight enthusiastic Makarere University students. Donna, Joya, Mike and Sergio went to a local primary school about 2 kilometers from where we are staying in Mukuno and spent the day teaching seventy 10-12 year olds. At the end of the day, the class sang us a song and presented our team with a parting gift – the largest, most perfect papaya any of us had ever seen!

Finally, on Friday, we all stayed at the Maendeleo Training Center (schools were mostly closed due to the Good Friday holiday) where we hosted and provided training to faculty and student leaders from Makarere University. This group, headed up by Dr. Willy Ngaka, leads the Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association, which is the preeminent grassroots organization in the West Nile region focusing on literacy as a crucial tool for realizing socio-economic transformation among the rural poor. Eric and the Maendeleo Foundation have worked closely with URLCDA in the past and they are exploring ways to further integrate Intel-powered classmate PC computer training into URLCDA’s rural educational programs.

After a celebration dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant in Kampala, team members set off to see some of the beautiful sights of Uganda before heading home. I spent the weekend at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria where I was fortunate enough to spend time in an enclosed area of forest, frolicking with 6 chimpanzees as the sanctuary team attempted to integrate a 4-year-old chimp named Afrika into the larger community of 44 rescued chimps. Others on the team headed to Jinja to see the source of the Nile, while some traveled south to see the wonders of Queen Elizabeth Park and the Rwenzori Mountains.

For all of us, this has been a very special and memorable experience on many levels. We have seen first-hand how technology like Intel-powered classmate PCs, the Maendeleo Foundation’s excellent educational software and the internet can be harnessed by dedicated, creative, caring and motivated people to open doors for young people and make a difference in their lives, regardless of their socio-economic challenges. We have seen how incredibly hungry young people are for opportunities to learn and expand their horizons beyond the poor urban and rural villages they live in. And, we have seen what wonderful things can happen when you pull together six Intel employees with very different backgrounds and experience on a common mission that they all care deeply about.

We would like to thank our truly inspiring and gracious hosts, Eric Morrow and Asia Kamukama. We are confident that the Maendeleo Foundation has a very bright future. And, we would again like to thank Intel for supporting this excellent program and for providing us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we will never forget.

P.S. Click here to catch up on the adventures, experiences and learnings from the 14 previous Intel Education Service Corps teams and the other teams who have just wrapped up projects in Vietnam, Kenya, and India.

3 Responses to IESC Uganda: Week Two

  1. Mulondo Apollo says:

    I am one of the makerere university Students whom you trained indeed i gained alot and learned alot thank you so much Ben,Dona,Mike,Mark,sergio,Joya and my colleagues Denis, Shilla, Eron, Okello And Doctor Have sent their greetings.
    we wish you get more time and come back and we continue from were we stoped it will be great for us to work and learn with you if we go to more rural areas for training, we are ready to volunteer.thanks so much and God Bless You.
    From apollo The one in Black, Denis in Checked pink,shilla in brown, Eron in red, Godfrey In yellow, Okello the old man and Dr Willy In coat

  2. John Ayayee says:

    As an African, I am always greatful for programs like this that can help bridge the gap not only between the developing continents but also within our own neighbourhoods, communities, cities and the continent at large. The greatest part of such programs is the sustainability aspect that is attached to it; i.e. training the older ones or equiping the more knowlegdable ones to take charge of their own enviroment and be responsible. This makes the program extremely sustainable.
    For the individual volunteers, you do a great job by leaving your comfort zone to bring hope and increase the faith of others. This is the greatest service anyone can give to humanity and “self”.