By Neelley Hicks, Guest Columnist
Near the epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, less than three months after it occurred, Clif Guy of Church of the Resurrection (COR) encountered a unique challenge: how to build a communications infrastructure so what was happening on the ground could be conveyed to incoming relief teams and others who had invested themselves in the Petit Goave community.
As director of IT at COR, Guy was used to technical challenges – but not of this scale. Spotty electricity and lack of Internet access in an area that had just suffered its worst natural disaster presented issues like never before. (Read how Clif used Google Earth to engineer a network to connect Haiti’s most needed areas.)
Emergency Channels Continue to Make an Impact
Flash forward to February 2013. As my colleagues and I from UMCom and Inveneo entered the guest house at Petit Goave, we encountered a mission team actively using smartphones and computers connected to the Internet. The work that Guy had done just over three years ago had achieved its purpose of keeping communications open for those working in this rural part of a developing country.
The communication challenges that volunteers in mission face are daunting to say the least. When people go abroad to assist, often their home bases receive little or no communications while they are away. The tide is shifting though – not only for those traveling in mission, but for those who live in some of the most disconnected places on earth.
Newly Renovated School Provides Critical Community Outreach
Computer community centers are being developed by United Methodists in mission who seek to improve access to information and provide 21st century educational experiences for people of all ages. Church of the Resurrection is working with the community in Petit Goave to establish one at the Harry Brakeman school, which has just been re-dedicated after renovations. During school hours, these labs provide access to information beyond the sometimes outdated printed materials in schools. After school hours, they will be open to those in the community who want to develop job skills, communicate with loved ones who live elsewhere, and share information that increases the overall health of communities.
Partnering to Bring More Communities Into The Information Age
We say we live in the “information age” but, in actuality, only some of us do. While not all United Methodist churches have skilled IT staff like Clif Guy to set up communication systems for mission settings, United Methodist Communications is working to facilitate the development of these centers, adding in-country expertise through a partnership with Inveneo– a social enterprise that works to connect some of those who need it most in the developing world. With emerging technologies and this partnership, United Methodists can experience our global connection unlike ever before, and some of the world’s most marginalized people can improve community healthcare, education, economies and more. This is one challenging mission for sure, but it’s one whose impact will echo for generations to come.
Follow @Nneelley, @UMCommunications and @Inveneo for ongoing updates of their work to connect those who need it the most.
Neelley recently posted a great article on how the computer lab goes way beyond technology. Setting up the lab as an after-school program for the larger community, enables everyone to benefit and provides a source of ongoing sustainable income. Read more Computers Feed Mind and Bodies in Haiti.
(UMNS photos by Mike DuBose)
Did You Know? Cisco’s VNI Service Adoption Research predicts that in Latin America:
Non-smartphones will be the largest source of business related connectivity with over 62 million devices.
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