IESC Haiti: A Small Step for Man, a Giant Leap for a Student

The Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to support the deployment of Intel classmate PCs in developing countries. In this blog, Cheryl Dalsin, a Technical Program Manager at Intel, recaps her team’s work with L’Ecole de Choix in Haiti.

Jean-Robert from Intel works with a student on the Intel classmate PC

There are some moments in life that you will never forget. One of those happened today for students at L’Ecole de Choix, when they sent their first email.

We had been at the school (which means “The School of Choice” in French) for nearly two weeks, providing technical and training support to the teachers and students. This was our last day, and we were all tired, hot, and looking forward to seeing our families after a successful project.

Then it happened.

The 4th grade students walked into the computer lab and powered up their classmate PCs. They didn’t know it, but today they would be sending their very first email to Laura Hartman, founder of L’Ecole de Choix. It took nearly two hours, but under close supervision of our team and the teachers, each student opened their anonymous account, composed and addressed a new message, typed a brief message, and then hit “send”.

They were content to have accomplished their assignment, and they had little idea what would happen next. Within minutes of hitting “send,” each student received a personal reply from Laura, with an attached photo from her office in downtown Chicago. Each student read their email, and beamed, as their connection to the world took on a new dimension.

4th grade student reading his very first email

This may not sound like a big deal to people in the US or Europe, but in the town of Mirebalais, Haiti, this is little short of miraculous. These children are the poorest of the poor. None of the other schools here have computers. And very few Haitians have ever experienced a conventional postal service, let alone email.

I emailed Laura and thanked her for responding so quickly to the students, and to tell her how much each of her messages meant to the students. Her response summed it up nicely: “You do not know how important this is….To give their voices life throughout the world, you have given them power.”

This two week assignment has been marked by other milestones, including working closely with the teachers on integrating technology into their classrooms and leveraging the computer lab in their teaching. We also provided additional training on the reporting features of Waterford Early Learning so teachers can better track the progress their students are making in learning English. And we upgraded the computer lab to run Waterford’s rich multimedia content wirelessly to increase mobility.

Our team feels proud that our assignment has made a small contribution towards the larger effort that is L’Ecole de Choix, which is profoundly changing the lives of hundreds of children in Mirebalais.

IESC Haiti 2H'12 team (L-R): Jean-Robert, Cheryl, Eric, Alice, Emiliano