Graduates Share Computer Knowledge in Haiti

Graduates Share Computer Know-How in Haiti
Former USAID/Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei (third from left) poses with (from left) Benoit Bernadel, Sherley Codio, Jennifer Francois, Mario Calixte and Fabrice Marcelin, whose bachelor’s degrees were funded by USAID.
Training for donated equipment comes from U.S.-educated techies
"We felt that it was our right and duty to teach such skills and share our knowledge with the teachers and students in Haiti.”

Following the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti received monetary and material donations from several countries to support its recovery and rebuilding process. When Literacy Volunteers of Fauquier County (LVFC) from Warrenton, Va., donated and installed computer labs throughout Haiti, the group faced one major hurdle: Haitian teachers and computer lab managers were not familiar with the computers' Linux-Mint operating system.

LVFC requested computer training for the beneficiaries from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). However, LVFC soon discovered that the solution was already in-country, thanks, in part, to USAID.

Three computer science graduates--Mario Eliezer Calixte, Fabrice Marcelin and Jennifer Alexandra François--had returned to Haiti in spring 2010 after receiving bachelor's degrees from Virginia Tech. Their degrees, along with two other graduates, were funded by USAID through a Higher Education for Development partnership between Virginia Tech and the Haitian higher education facility Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti.

“As Haitians, we are well aware of how difficult it is to get either prime education or training, so we felt that it was our right and duty to teach such skills and share our knowledge with the teachers and students in Haiti,” said François, who works at Ericsson, a telecommunication company located in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

Calixte, Marcelin and François, who subsequently earned master's degrees at Virginia Tech in 2012 through a Google scholarship, applied the skills and techniques they learned to develop and facilitate training sessions in their home country. As trainers, they collaborated on curricula development and led two one-day computer skills sessions in September 2012 in Terrier-Rouge in northeast Haiti and Port-au-Prince.

“This opportunity matched my vision to use technologies to bring educational resources and training into hard-to-reach areas of Haiti,” Calixte said.

A total of 14 teachers from schools in Terrier-Rouge, Capotille, Ouanaminthe, Fort-Liberte, Port-au-Prince, and Petit Goave attended hands-on sessions to learn basic navigation skills, application information, and the difference between Linux, Windows and Mac computer operating systems. Calixte and Marcelin also tailored instructions to each person’s level.

“Being a Linux fan, I knew I would be a valuable asset to the team,” Marcelin said.

Fulfilling local community needs is not a new endeavor for the three recent graduates. At Virginia Tech, they were members of a student group, “Computer Science Community Service,” which teaches computer skills to U.S. youth and adults. Their spirit of global community service is rooted in their participation in the international higher education partnership.

“The experience at Virginia Tech had a great impact on our involvement in this project,” said François. “As strong believers of Virginia Tech’s motto ‘Ut Prosim—That I May Serve,’ giving back to the community is now second nature to us.”