Noel Durrant: Volunteer Testimonial
We made our way to an orphanage outside of Nairobi, strategically positioned near a slum, where it cares for young children who are daily turned out on the streets to fend for themselves. It was my first international education project and I was enthusiastic, but had no idea of where it would eventually lead me. Building on the groundwork of a previous team, we installed more equipment, puzzled over buggy software and eradicated viruses – all the while dealing with the ‘normal’ conditions of intermittent power and a frustrating internet connection.
The struggles were completely offset by the energy of cheerful little learners, dedicated teachers, and a uniting gift of extraordinary teamwork. Afterwards I would tell friends or coworkers about working there and their reaction was envious – they could see that it was the special kind of work that makes a difference. But occasionally someone would ask “how do you know you made a difference?” Or they would challenge the idea of using technology to help teach kids in such dire circumstances as ‘not cost effective’ or even ‘a waste’. The question goes to the core of education and development — “how can you measure success?”.
Fast forward 4 years: The orphanage and other projects captured my interest so much that it’s now the work of my second career, and the question of how to measure success is literally part of my job. So when someone sent me an article on the impact of using ICT in education, I was excited to see “results have shown that on average the DIBELS [reading literacy] test scores improved by 114 per cent. This means that on average their literacy scores more than doubled in six months after the implementation of a computer lab.” This is a strong positive result for any project, but it blew me away when I saw it is from the same orphanage outside Nairobi. With their own effort and the help of volunteers, they kept improving their computer education program to the point of now drawing national attention in Kenya.
If we had a fast forward button, maybe we could predict how much benefit a project will bring or where an avocation could become a vocation. Seeing a result like this helps me know what kind of results to expect from a well-managed project and what the answer may sound like when looking for success. A fast forward button would also tell me that we will be saying congratulations and thanks to the Karibu center for a long time in the future.