Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snippets of Service—Recapping Two Years of Blogging: Computer Lab Project

As I’m sure you’ve probably already read about, I had a project I was working on where I was trying to get more computers for my school’s computer lab and I was also trying to get them to fix up the lab so it was more usable for classes.  It took me over a year from the time I got this idea to the time the lab was finished and I think I can say it was the single biggest accomplishment of my entire Peace Corps service.

I first thought up this idea at my IST (In-Service Training), which was held about four months after we got to site (August 2011).  At this training we were told to come up with an idea for a secondary project, something besides just teaching our classes that would help our school or our community.  Naturally being a computer teacher I thought what better project than to fix up the computer lab.  Also in this training we were first formally introduced to Peace Corps’ grants.

After some discussions with my head teacher and some serious thoughts on how to implement this project, I started to write a grant to acquire more computers.  My school had about 7 computers already, but not all of them were working and the lab did not even have proper computer desks.  My idea was that if I could get more computers with grant money, then maybe the school could take it even further to fix up the lab.  As it turns out, my instincts were right.  With just the hope of the grant eventually getting approved my school had new computer desks made and they started the process of fixing up the lab.

As I struggled to work with Peace Corps to write this grant, I had many moments of discouragement.  At the time, there was not a good process or time frame for submitting grants and there was little or no money for a project like mine.  This almost led me to give up, until finally I suggested to Peace Corps that I use a different type of grant, a PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program) grant, which would require me to collect the money from private donors back in the states.  Once I made this suggestion the project took off, but we still had a long way to go.  I still needed to collect nearly $7200 from friends and family back in the U.S.  Although with some help and support from everyone I know back home and a little bit of patience, we finally collected all the money we needed and we were able to continue with the project.

At the end of September 2012, Kinoni Girls’ S.S. finally received 20 brand new desktop computers and a printer.  By that point the lab was fully able to accommodate such a large number of computers and the school assigned one of the school secretaries as a lab assistant.  To this day, without any further help from me, the computer lab is being up-kept and is properly being used for computer classes.

Also, after struggling so much with my grant, I volunteered to be a volunteer member of the grant committee, which reviews and approves volunteers’ grants.  Through this committee I was able to assist other volunteers throughout the grant process, so that they didn’t have to struggle as much as I did with writing their grants.  Since I submitted my grant, Peace Corps has changed its grant review process and now has a solid time frame for submitting grants.  So hopefully, if someone in the future submits a grant like mine it won’t take a year to see the project from beginning to end.

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