Say Hello to the World Uganda, Thanks to PED

In honor of Africa Industrialization Day, we decided it was about time we touch base with our incredible partner, Pangea Educational Development. As usual, PED has a very exciting project in the works in Uganda, and one that is most definitely worth learning more about!

Remember when the GoAbroad Foundation rallied supporters to fundraise for a Clean Water Project at St. James School that was completed earlier this year?

Well, Hello Hub is PED’s newest project in Uganda, and they are ending 2015 with a bang.

Drew with a local community member in Uganda
Drew with a local community member in Uganda Photo Credit: Matt Caruso

We reached out to Drew, who is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations for PED, to discuss Hello Hub in detail. But before we reveal more, first let us tell you a little more about Drew.

Drew is a graduate of  DePaul University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in International Studies, and also earned the university’s St. Vincent de Paul Award. Now stationed full time in Uganda as PED’s very first U.S. staff member on the ground, Drew keeps himself busy working with local community members and continuing to make every new project an even greater success.

How did the idea for the Hello Hub come about?

For over 5 years now, we have been working to build sustainable solutions to make a quality education accessible across Uganda. We have seen tremendous success in our partner schools and in the lives of students and their families, but we have been wanting to do more. We have been wanting to get beyond the classroom and make education available for all. It wasn’t until we met Projects For All and their pilot Project Hello World in Nigeria that we knew we may have found an answer.

The Hello Hub was created in response to the question “How do we give access to the vast body of information and resources to those who could benefit most from utilizing them in under-resourced communities?” That is, “how do you bring computers and the infinite possibilities of the internet to areas of our planet that don’t have access to electricity in the first place?” What resulted is a rugged computer kiosk that is waterproof, dustproof, and entirely solar powered, and built to cater to both adults and children in its design.

As important, though, is not just the technology, it is the approach to community involvement in it’s build that is truly empowering.

Community members learn how to build and problem solve their hub as it is being built, so that they too can troubleshoot when challenges arise and develop complete collective ownership in the process. We at PED think it is a truly innovative solution and a way to reach corners of our partner communities in ways we have not yet been able to, which is why we invited Projects For All to come to Uganda.

Together, PED, Projects For All, Lessons For Life, Airtel Uganda, and especially our partner communities, are making these possibilities a reality for thousands of people across Uganda. I think this is a model for collaboration that many could learn from. We simply could not do this without a single one of these stakeholders at the table.

Projects for All Staff Member interacting with some of the children
Projects for All Staff Member interacting with some of the children. Photo Credit: Matt Caruso

Tell us more about your partner Projects For All.

Projects For All (PFA) is an organisation with a simple mission: equality for all. Their projects are all designed to implement or test their core principle of community-led development. They believe that by working in equal partnership with developing communities we can have a lasting impact on social justice. They know that all communities have the cultural capital to change their lives, but sometimes they need support to break cycles of poverty and hardship; that’s where PFA comes in.

They don’t shy away from some of the most intractable and difficult problems of our time, because they know that by working together, with respect and emergent plans, plus the many benefits of technology, shared knowledge, and experience, they can build partnerships that really do lead to equality for all.

Why do you think the Hello Hub will be impactful for the local community?

The Hello Hub will go beyond the classroom to the children out of school, the women, and the men who live near it. It will be the first opportunity to connect to the internet in this community transforming the economic development, opening new learning opportunities, and giving a voice to the everyday person.

Photo Credit: Matt Caruso

You recently met with community members to discuss the project. What are their general reactions about it?

Unadulterated excitement. Community members have worked together to mobilize raw materials for construction, tools, a rotating workforce, food, and their time to make the Hello Hub in their community a success. All of these items do not come from a place of passive excess, they come from determined, sacrificial giving, which is an indication of just how much excitement is buzzing throughout the community here.

How do you think the Hello Hub will benefit local students’ education?

The Hello Hub will absolutely transform local students education with the loaded educational programming on it, access to the world’s body of knowledge in the internet, and more resources for teachers to be both more effective and efficient in their craft. What’s more, though, is that the Hello Hub will go beyond the classroom to the children out of school, the women, and the men who live near it. It will be the first opportunity to connect to the internet in this community.

Photo Credit: Matt Caruso

What value do you think technological knowledge and computer skills have in developing countries?

Technology and computer skills have the opportunity to close the global gap in education, transform the economic development of communities the world over, and give a voice to the everyday person.

Without them, though, the gap will widen. This is why access to it has emerged as a human right in recent years.

How do you think access to the internet will help expand cross-cultural learning?

Access to the internet gives communities a seat at the global table to share our human experience and listen to others. It gives us exposure to different cultures, perspectives, places, and ideas, and it allows us to build our worldview in enlightening us to just how similar, pleasantly different, and entirely human we are in the world.

Photo Credit: Matt Caruso

What are your hopes for the Hello Hub’s first year?

Our hope is that that our students and community build a level of computer fluency that will equip them to realize the possibilities of technology like this. From this we are excited to see the data on just what different users find most valuable in using the technology.

Does PED have any plans of expanding Hello Hubs to other communities in Uganda?

We think these four hubs are just the beginning of how communities in Uganda could transform themselves through the Hello Hub. Our hope is that with working with Projects For All and great funding foundations, like Lessons For Life who have served on this build, we could build 30, 50, 100, or even more in the year to come once the funding lines up.

How can people help support the Hello Hub?

Funding is one of the greatest hurdles to bringing this incredible resource to communities around Uganda and beyond. Sharing the news and updates from Project Hello World will help us let more and more advocates for education what we are working to accomplish. There will be a rollout of interested volunteers to Skype mentor students at the hub, help children with their homework, via video chat in the near future!

Photo Credit: Justin Keena
Photo Credit: Justin Keena

Continue to follow PED’s updates on the project on their Facebook Page.