We’ve Begun! The Digital Literacy Program at Hogar Belen
Last year Don Morrison wrote about our plans for improving digital literacy at Hogar Belen. Now, we are ready to give an update on the incredible progress we are making thanks to the gracious donations we have received from you, our supporters. Let’s look into how things are shaping up and get an in-depth look at the program in Peru.
About a year ago, through a mutual connection at Microsoft, Don Morrison and Sally Frank started sharing their experiences working on different volunteer initiatives in Peru. Don had worked with Sacred Valley Health helping them modernize their health care delivery systems and medical records, and Sally had worked at the Hogar Belen Orphanage in Moquegua helping upgrade the children’s living quarters. After comparing notes, the two decided they wanted to work together on something new: a digital literacy program at Hogar.
The duo brought the idea to Neale Bayly, who liked the idea immediately. The three then started the work to organize, plan and develop a digital literacy program.
In August 2017, Don and Neale traveled to Hogar Belen to meet with the nuns who run the orphanage to investigate just how to establish a digital literacy program. Their findings? It wouldn’t be easy, but not impossible either.
The feasibility study, authored by Don, detailed all that was needed to establish the program. We would need funds, laptops, software, curriculums for both adults and children, high speed internet connectivity and, most importantly, a Spanish-speaking trainer.
The resulting plan meant that we would have to build an on-site computer lab at the orphanage and train adults to train other adults and children. All of this in a location where just a year ago, the electrical system at Hogar Belen had been dangerously out of date and had only recently been modernized. In fact, as late as 2015, they had no running water, so a computer lab was a heady goal, indeed.
But why go to all this trouble to bring the latest technology to a hot, dusty, dry, desert orphanage? Because we can and we should. This computer lab will enable both adults and children to develop new skills, improve their employability, and spark careers paths that were previously unthinkable for adults and new educational paths for children. Those that were forgotten by society can now lead society.
The Reality of Digital Literacy
So, with a lot of tenacity, the Sisters joined forces with Don, Neale and Sally and the amazing team at BS Grupo, a Microsoft partner, based in Arequipa. We now had a common goal: to get the digital literacy program up and running in April 2018.
The first step was to provide Sisters Fabiola, Maria and Josefina with a laptop of their own and establish an Internet connection for the orphanage. The former was definitely easier than the latter. But the Wellspring team was undeterred.
Then the team at BS Grupo, Oscar Quintanilla and Jose Paz Alverez, began their work, modifying existing training curriculum to meet the unique needs of our prospective students. Donating literally hundreds of hours of time, Oscar and Jose Paz developed and delivered the curriculum to our eager students. Taking time away from their work and family, they performed this invaluable service professionally and graciously.
After arriving in Peru and completing his regular tour duties with Neale Bayly Rides, Neale purchased 5 computers for the lab. Shortly thereafter, this virtual team who had been working together for almost a year, finally met in person in Arequipa, and caravanned to Moquegua to kick off the program.
Arriving at Hogar Belen on Sunday evening, the team quickly set up the computers, loaded software and got the laptops connected to the Internet. All was ready for the 5 adult trainees at 9am sharp Monday morning.
And now the program is off and running, with 5 identified adult trainers and a handful of children for the first classes. The only real glitch was the internet speed. So, in typical fashion, Neale and Sister Fabiola solved the problem by 10:30am that Monday morning and now all the computers can be online simultaneously at reasonable speeds.
But we’re not done yet…
You’d think after all the wrangling this project took, we’d be pleased and call it a day, right?
This is just the beginning.
As we refine this digital literacy program, we hope to build a “Center of Excellence,” that not only serves as a blueprint for bringing this program to other orphanages, but becomes a community resource, offering computer literacy for anyone who needs it, on a “pay as you can” basis.
Using this approach, our trained adults can train others and get some payment in return, while infusing the community with well-trained, employable people. Additionally, this revenue stream could assist with some of the ongoing costs of the internet, software and other items.
We are also planning to provide accessibility options for differently-abled children and adults in the near future to open up their lives with the aid of technology.
How can you help?
There are still significant needs, but we can’t do it without you. If you want to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, you can help in three ways:
- Support the Renovation of the Computer Lab – Make a one-time donation to help us renovate the computer lab. It’s currently not air conditioned and lacks appropriate security and furniture.
- Defray the On-going Costs of Running the Computer Lab – Consider a monthly donation to reduce the monthly costs of the computer lab in Moquegua and help us continue to refine and expand the program.
- Participate in the Program – Join us in bringing technology to those who need it most, by traveling to these sites yourself or underwriting the cost of other volunteers traveling to the program sites to continue the work.