With the important cricket bat and rugby balls and pump packed, I was looking forward to teaching the local Cameroon lads (as well as some of my Irish colleagues !) a good cover drive and the odd googly, whilst keeping them fit with some touch rugby sevens. Before that however, we had another important task ahead of us to complete. One of the projects that had been identified by Kamila in previous visits to Batoufam, was the need to set up a computer room that could subsequently be used to help further teach basic computer skills, but also an invaluable tool for learning and gaining access to the internet. As per earlier blogs, this too was a bit of a step into the unknown, not knowing quite what level they were at in terms of computing skills, what state the computer room was in and what was required to setup the internet connection itself. It was going to be a long week ahead, but thankfully I had the very energetic and capable Thays and Paolo duo to support me, as a team we all worked well together.
Seen as a very important part of the overall game plan, it was vital we had the computer room up and running by the end of the week. Somewhat daunting was the King’s very inquisitive approach each evening over supper….’are the computers working yet’ ….. it was imperative the computers and connectivity were sorted soonest otherwise we may never make it home !!
Thays and Paolo were instrumental in helping set up the computer room itself, unloading each pc and getting them up and running and in working order, cleaning and clearing the room itself of all rubbish, dirt and spiders ! A big thank you must be said to all the firms that donated the computer and IT equipment (Beauchamps / Glen Fuels / Meritec/VHI Swiftcare) and to Derek and Ehtisham for all their stern efforts as non- travelling volunteers, faced with the onerous task of installing hard drives and for checking the computers and software prior to loading onto the container. It was essential that any equipment sent, had to be in good working order once received on the ground, with all components, cabling etc otherwise it becomes a very arduous task to assemble whilst out there where spare equipment is non-existent. This is important to remember for future equipment that is sent too.
The main concern was the local engineer, whilst he did a thorough job, the pace of progress was very slow, and something we all got used to as this was the ‘norm’ with all tasks where we had to rely on local support. With a satellite dish installed and strong signal received, it seemed to take for eternity to get the connection activated from the provider. This was accomplished thankfully on the final day, and since our return, there have been further reports that the pc’s are working well. We now have a DHL courier en-route with further adapters / power cables / ancillary pc equipment which will enable them to have 12 x pc’s up and running with an excellent internet connection.
The secondary aim is to now help implement a training programme for themselves in Batoufam, involving tuition on the ground in order that they can maximise the benefits of the computers installed and hopefully learn about other customs and cultures world-wide. It was clear by the end of the week that they certainly have the ability to learn as well as the desire to do so too, but simply not the capacity or means. If we can assist in helping them to help themselves, then we will have achieved our aim and longer-term goals too, as they learn to become self-reliant.
Needless to say, with the short amount of time that we were there and the numerous tasks that we were keen to complete, there was little time for the cricket coaching and rugby 7’s, the ‘left arm around the wicket googly’ will sadly have to wait for next year…