I teach and learn in developing countries. The catalyst for Villages Innovate was experiencing the powerful results of sharing heart connections and innovative thinking between diverse people in Africa, especially when difficult conditions seemed relentless. A brief story may take you through the journey that inspires me to devote the rest of my life to building sustainable partnerships for life-long service learning.
A Twin School Program started between Harare International School and Kadyamadare School in Zimbabwe over 18 years ago. A music teacher invited students from the rural village, located 57km from Harare, to sing with us at a UN Day Celebration on the front lawn of our own unfinished campus. Electricity kept failing, but human voices permeated our hearts and souls with songs of endless global possibilities. Human connections in difficult circumstances are often initially powerful, but become fragile and short-lived. Long-term relationships require a lot of work, and so we began.
Village families "adopted" our students, and taught them Shona ways of living. Together we then accomplished projects that benefited the village school. Once simple interactions between students and adults within the partnering communities blossomed into committed relationships, amazing collaborative results occurred. In Zimbabwe, we always "make a plan." However, we quickly accepted that linear progress towards the 'plan' could not always be achieved.
Over the 18 years, creative thinking and sheer will-power produced self-refurbished computers and training before electricity, clean water before finishing the pipes, library books before a room for them, a collaborative movie project before figuring out how to share computers and skills, and material for uniforms before securing sewing machines. In our partnership, our belief is that dreams are the seeds of reality. When we trusted each other and our beliefs and plans, results materialized. Of course the amazingly precious gift of African laughter fed the resilience we needed to get up, dust ourselves off, and move on after disappointments and failures. In reality, however, we learned that our failures were just as critical to share as our shining moments!
When the disappointing time came to move to Kenya, dedicated students and teachers began building a resource center for the Kadyamadare community in honor of all the teachers who were leaving Zimbabwe that year. The tenacious fundraising by those who continued teaching in Harare and the contributions of labor and bricks from the village have produced a nearly-completed the building project. It will soon be time to nurture and develop the building into a center of learning.
The challenging move to Kenya spurred new growth. I learned ways to be able to continue working in partnerships when distance becomes a problem. I also learned that sustainable models could be adapted to new situations. The Digital Divide continues to hamper the world's most disadvantaged, but today's youth cannot wait to be prepared for tomorrow. They need the skills to live in their world today. Leap-frogging some past technologies may be the solution. Mobile technologies and apps are becoming effective modes of communicating, delivering content, and even serve as local payment systems (MPESA in Kenya). Innovation and creativity are the strengths in Africa. I needed to develop a vehicle, Villages Innovate, to help continue the work for which I have a passion.
The goals of Villages Innovate are:
* To become an inclusive and collaborative partnership through which individuals, organizations, schools, and village communities transform challenges into practical sustainable solutions that improve educational, health and quality of life conditions;
* To inspire local action, accountability and entrepreneurship empowering communities to contribute towards global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Mother May I is an incredible gift of partnership through which the following goals can be accomplished in the upcoming year:
1. Establish the Kadyamadare Resource Center as an example of partners using ICT with local and international expertise to meet some of the educational needs of a village population;
2. Develop a Computer Coding Club in which students of diverse backgrounds work together learning design and programming skills, which are key to the future. These clubs will be designed by youth and led by local young people who can adapt the model in varying circumstances;
3. Use ICT to create partnerships between village communities and global students and professionals, to build platforms that bring innovative ideas to light and encourage voices be heard, and to celebrate successes.
Villages Innovate Kathleen is a teacher committed to Service Learning concerning global issues. She is a mother to two grown men who she regularly video conferences with just so they can keep up with her.
Digital Commuter Strategy Our big idea is to use digital technology to improve and streamline the end-to-end experience of New York City's public transportation system. We're on the hunt for a mom who is as passionate as we are about innovation in public transportation.