When your family must survive off of $2 dollars a day, it’s hard to envision the future past tomorrow. OneLife wants to change that perspective in the next generation of Haitians.
OneLife is a group of Cincinnati business owners and leaders with the goal of creating an educational program for the children of Haiti. The program will prepare them with the skills needed for various jobs in tech, agriculture, auto mechanics, and solar.
Parents currently feel that they need to give their kids up for adoption or put them in an orphanage for a better life because they cannot provide for them. You can be an orphan with both parents by being abandoned or neglected. Our big picture goal is providing jobs to Haitians in their own country to keep the family units together.
Mark and I recently visited Haiti along with OneLife and Back2Back Ministries to help kick off the mission. It was just as much a learning experience for us as it was for the children. We were able to spend time with kids and teenagers ages 9 to 19 at four different orphanages.
The goals for this particular trip were centered around the technology track. We wanted to gauge their current skill level, get to know their language and culture, and assess their problem-solving skills by providing them with different challenges. Determining these things would 1. Affirm that technology should be a focus in the overall training program and 2. Give us the baseline knowledge to go forward with creating the curriculum.
1. Gauge current digital aptitude and interest in learning
The average toddler in the U.S. knows how to operate a smartphone before they utter their first word. For many of the teenagers at the orphanages we visited, this was the first time in their life they’d touched or used a computer. How quickly would they adapt to new technology?
2. Identify cultural and language barriers
French and Creole are the two official languages of Haiti. Back2Back Ministries has local partners who are native to the area and help with translations. We wanted to see if we could successfully communicate complex ideas in ways the teens could understand. How well would they comprehend and follow directions?
3. Assess critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and ability to work together as a team
The schools in Haiti have 13 grades and a lot of their learning is done through memorization. Critical thinking is a fundamental of software development. In order for us to prepare them to get a job in tech, they needed to have these core skills. How would they innovate to solve problems on the fly?
The curriculum for the week was split into four challenges: problem-solving, coding, website design, and virtual reality. We used these “challenges” to observe how the teens interacted, where they got stuck, and how they adapted to change.
Groups were given a package of legos and a set of directions that told them to build a house. The directions had a list of requirements they had to follow. “four walls, one door, two windows, a blue roof, a garden, and a tree.” However, the set package they were given did not have any blue legos in it. They worked together as a team and figured out how to adjust their plan so they could make it happen.
Kids were able to instruct a Minecraft game to move forward and backward using IF/THEN statements and WHILE loops in a drag and drop environment.
3. Web Design
They were taught HTML and used it to change the color on the screen from red to black.
4. Virtual Reality
They got to experience virtual reality with Google Cardboard VR devices and mobile phones. VR allowed them to “go to” National Parks, see inside caves, and other countries. This opened their eyes to see that learning can be done anywhere. They can learn English in Haiti. They can even learn computer skills in Haiti too.
The fascination with the glowing screens and the curiosity on their faces were priceless. These teenagers have a strong interest and drive to master basic digital skills and apply them to careers in the technical field. Some even gravitated to the computers during their “play” time and stayed glued to them for hours. In the words of OneLife team member Mark Tiderman, “We see you!”
We are looking forward to continuing on this path with the children of Haiti by teaching them English and the skills to advance into careers in technical fields. Providing them with the tools to run the educational program autonomously will help future generations of Haitians. A few of the next steps on this journey are:1. Selecting the hardware for the computer lab
2. Develop the full curriculum
3. Identify a local leader to hire as the first instructor
For more information about the organizations involved:
Back2Back Ministries is an international Christian non-profit organization dedicated to being a voice for orphans. Currently building a new headquarters in Haiti.
SonLight Power - is a not for profit organization providing solar panels to the new Back2Back headquarters that will make the structures completely off the grid.