Team travels to Haiti to report on life-changing technology projects

February 12, 2013
When a team from United Methodist Communications travels to Haiti February 11-16, they’ll be hoping to see how locals in Thomas and LeVeque are using community-based information technology centers and the resulting value to their lives.

“These centers give people who are otherwise off-the-grid access to information through the Internet that can help them live more productive and economically viable lives,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “This is a key tool for the church to use for human empowerment.”

A partnership of United Methodist Communications, Inveneo, The California-Nevada Annual Conference and Church of the Resurrection, the Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) project has established computer community centers at Methodist schools in Haiti, both to educate students and adults in the community. Income from the centers drives sustainable agricultural development, creates employment, ensures economic progress and pays for hot meals for schoolchildren. Read more about the computer labs and partnerships.

In addition to visiting two established computer labs, the United Methodist Communications team (which includes Hollon, the Rev. Neelley Hicks, assistant director of communications ministry, United Methodist News Service writer Kathy Gilbert and photographer Mike DuBose) will complete assessments on two other sites where labs have been requested. One is Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI), a fair trade artisan co-op that promotes economic development and empowerment. The second is a community-based program in Petit Goave.

UMNS international reporting

Veteran writer Kathy Gilbert has reported from various international assignments during her tenure with UMNS.

"Everywhere I have traveled, I have been welcomed and cared for by strangers who treated me like a sister, auntie or friend. Most of the trips involve long hours in unfriendly airports, but no matter how scary the building might look or how long it takes to fight through airport lines, there is always a smiling person holding a sign that reads United Methodist Church. And I know I am safe.”

Throughout the journey, the team will be gathering photos and stories of transformation. One report will explain the impact technology has had in the life of Beaujour Renel, who recently learned how to use a computer for the first time.

“As a director, I was ashamed for not knowing how to use a computer … I always pretended I knew how,” said Renel. “But now after this first day, I feel that I am on track … This opportunity we have is like God coming down to us.”

In addition, they will ask students what the computer centers mean to them, as profits from selling Internet access provide them with hot lunches.

The goal of the trip goes far beyond what is happening in Haiti, but to examine how such technology can be implemented in other parts of the world. Hollon says it’s important for the denomination’s communications agency to understand how media are affecting people around the world. “There is a very different effect in each area that is very much related to living conditions and to the realities of the contexts in which people are using media. Our role is to provide the means for people to consider whether technology is useful to them and whether it can help solve problems … and if it is of value to their community, we will utilize our resources to help make connections in order to create better quality of life.

Follow the team’s progress, reports and photographs on anCisco’s Connected Life Exchange blog. 

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