Community Service Event: School for the Blind and the Deaf ( #ibmcsc )
On Saturday the team went to the Ekiti School for the Deaf and Blind, which was our community service event during our trip in Ekiti state. Kelsen, Mithilish, and I made an early visit to the school on Wednesday in order to understand the environment and to get some ideas around the ways that we could contribute. We were determined that the day be something more than a “meet and greet” where we shake hands with officials and get a tour – the team wanted to be interactive and get their hands dirty!
After the meeting we came up with one very clear project: to take the computer equipment that they had received a few months earlier and use our expertise to set up their specialised computer lab which could support visually-impaired students. We also asked them to give us suggestions as well in time for Saturday. So we received their listing of suggestions on Friday evening and shortly after we got to the schools we took on the following projects:
Building a computer lab that supports visually-impaired students
Erosion Control (digging a gutter)
Personal hygiene counseling
“The Future” for the Visually-Impaired
I participated in the project for personal hygiene counseling, setting up the computer lab, and “the future.” I have to say that this was one of the best parts of the experience so far. The kids were so thankful that we were just spending time with them, getting to know them, and helping them with things that they might not have been able to do themselves.
I have to say that I am particularly proud of the computer lab. We managed to set up a machine that can make photocopies of braille pages, a printer that can print out in braille, and set up some computers and laptops which support the visually impaired. So both the hearing and visual-impaired kids can take advantage of the computer lab. We also downloaded some activity kits and software from IBM’s On-Demand volunteer community so kids could plays games and do events teaching them more about math and science.
I am also proud of time we spend with the blind children talking about the future. I gave them a homework assignment that they had to write me a letter telling me what they want to be when they grow up and I promised to do some research to find good examples which would help to prove to them they can follow their dreams. And several of us from the IBM team committed to use our personal connections to see what we could do to support the school after we left (we had each begun working on contacting organisations separately and it’s wasn’t until a few days later that it was clear that several of us were reaching out to our personal contacts. It’s moments like these when I am at my proudest to be an IBMer and work with colleagues who think beyond themselves. 🙂
But rather than write a lot of text about it…pictures 🙂
Today we had the opportunity to drive out Isan-Ekiti, which is considered one of the rural areas of Ekiti state. The drive took us about 45 minutes from our office and even the ride itself was a mixture of paved roads and roadworks under construction. The purpose of the visit was connected to our Citizen Information Management System (CIMS) project. The felt that it was be a good idea to talk to the people who would be impacted by the project that we want to implement – elderly citizens. We were specifically interested in understanding their experiences with the process today and what they thought about some of our proposals to introduce some technology-related solutions into the payment process. We also wanted to get a sense of the different types of towns where our solutions would be implemented in terms of infrastructure and communities.
We were scheduled to meet with 5 of Isan-Ekiti elderly residents, but we ended up meeting with about a dozen. Thanks to our local host team (Yemi and Ayo) we were able to speak to them (the residents spoke Yoruban so we needed translation support), I think we were able to have a great conversation and learn a lot about the process from the End-User perspective including what issues were important to them (trust, convenience, security, ease of use, amongst other criteria) as we work on the alternatives. What I can say here now is that the use of biometrics was a clearly preferred option! That was fantastic to know because it shows that technology can be adapted to the environment, instead of the other way around.
I think the team and I left with new energy. We have faces now to the work we are doing. I am committed to make this important part of their lives more convenient, more secure, and the more efficient. One of the residents we had the privilege of speaking with prayed for our success. I have no intention of letting her down.
This morning I woke up and went to church, which I have to say is the first time in a very long time. However, I really wanted to participate in a church service in Nigeria as I had heard that they were very intense experiences with lots of prayer and singing. About half of the group went to the services and I have to say that I am very glad that we did go! The church was welcoming of us all, and even took a few moments out of the service to mention that we were there, what IBM was working on in the community, and then the minister asked the congregation to pray for our success. It’s really hard to describe what we experienced. In some places, it was about solemn reflection. And in other parts of the sermon, it was only what I could describe as “violent prayer.” Not violent in the sense where people were hurt, but in the sense that there was a lot of shaking, shouting our prayers and asking for redemption, and holding hands. If the roles of ministers are to whip the congregation into a frenzy of devotion and unity of message and purpose, then the mission was accomplished. The congregation seemed to hang on their every word. At the end of the service, the congregation gave us some small gifts and told us we were warmly welcome back. It was hard not to smile leaving the church. Next week we hope to visit a traditional Yoruba church as well as a mosque as Ekiti seems to be a multi-religious society.
After a morning of prayer (the service was 3 hours!), we had a an afternoon of golf thanks to the kind auspices of the Chief Security Officer (CSO). There were 3 of us who met up with the the CSO who took us to the golf course in Ekiti. I have to say that it was a great experience and it was great to spend the afternoon being a bit active and working on improving my horrible golf handicap! Towards the end of the game we were joined by a couple of other colleagues and just then it started to rain. So back at the lodge area, we had some beers and started talking with people around it. It was a great way to end the Sunday! I also realised that I am a long long way away from being anywhere close to Tiger Woods.
I don’t have golf pics at the moment, but promise to add them later!
Today we had the pleasure of visiting the Ikogosi Springs Resort and Arita Waterfall as a team. The resort at Ikogosi is in the final stages of Phase 1 development and not ready for the public, so we were grateful to be able to see the resort as it is in its final stages of Phase 1 development. We were also honoured to get a tour of the facilities by the Managing Director of the property. From what we saw so far, when the resort opens in a few months time it should be very impressive! Besides have great lodging options, pools, etc, the resort is surrounded by beautiful nature and hot and cold springs which make for an interesting and beautiful experience. Of course, the Managing Director was friendly, welcoming, and was eager for our feedback. I really do hope that the resort is a success. It has everything going for it!
After our tour of the resort, we made a short drive over to Arita Waterfall. The waterfall itself is relatively small, but it definitely is in a scenic and location and as part of a trip to Ikogosi is well worth a visit. The team took a lot of pictures in the water and a few of us even climbed up towards the top of the waterfall.
So by the late afternoon, I think most of us were ready to head back to the hotel. It was a nice day out. And I am looking forward to attending church service tomorrow. I heard that they do it differently here in Nigeria.
Press conferences, official meetings, and other formalities over, today is the day when we roll up our sleeves to get to work. Everyone across all of the sub-teams are eager to start. Our day of course begins with one more meeting, but this is the kickoff meeting where we discuss the overall vision and goals of the projects we are working on, as well as the statement of work. The kickoff meeting is good and we meet with our contacts in order to try and understand the nature and scope of our project in more detail.
In the sub-project I work on together with Leslie and Kelsen, I have to say that we are very fortunate to work with a person from the local team who has done a lot of thinking surrounding our project and has a clear vision of the future. That clear vision has translated into a very good Scope of Work (SoW) document which we will be using as the base of how to move forward with our project over the next 4 weeks. Because the SoW is so clear on the long-term goals, we think we will be able to deliver on a roadmap which will help get them on the path of implementing the long-term vision. In the team we decided on the approach to update the SoW and get agreement from our client. So far so good as a team.
So what is it exactly that we are doing? The project in a nutshell comes down to a question of identification. The challenge in identifying people is how does a country/region go about identifying its citizens so that they can ensure that they are providing the services that the citizen’s need? It’s a simple set of questions, but the way to go about those solutions can be complex. Our job is to design and develop a framework which makes this possible. It’s a really cool project and we’re committed to doing a really great job.
So in addition to our tweets and blogs, the team decided to put together a few more ways interested people can follow along:
Our day began with a press conference in the morning where we presented ourselves, the mission of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, and remarks from various government officials and our partners during the next 4 weeks. There was also some time for questions from the press. I was really proud of the way our Corporate Affairs representative handled the questions and spoke about us the work that we are doing.
Following the press conference, we then were taken to the Palace of the Ewi Ado Ekiti (Ewi = King). After presenting ourselves and our objectives, the Ewi spoke to us about the history of Ado Ekiti, gave us his blessings and prayers, and was gracious enough to take a photograph with us!
After our meeting with the Ewi, we then had a formal opening meeting with the His Excellency Governor Fayemi. Who explained how we came to end up in Ekiti State (even if it is the smallest state in Nigeria, it is larger than 15 other African nations in terms of population), his expectations from us, and his blessings for successful engagements across all of our projects.
After our meeting with the Governor, we went to have lunch at Chicken Republic before heading back to the hotel. Note here that one of the pictures here shows our securty convey who are nice enough to escort us around the town. In this case,
So…today was a day filled with pomp and circumstance and it was a cool experience. And tomorrow will be all about work and meeting our clients and getting our project started. I am really looking forward to it!
By the way, more pictures will come soon I promise. Consistent reliable internet has been a challenge, but I hope that we solve this in the next couple of days. Ciao for now.
Yesterday evening I installed Windows 8 Pro on my private laptop.
I have to say so far so good. I can understand why people would complain that the experience is optimised for the touch screen market, but I really don’t get the complaints that it somehow so impossible to use that no one will ever understand it. If you want to understand the new Windows 8, just simply move your mouse to the edges of the screen as there is no start menu button. And there is a “desktop” mode which looks 99% like what you had in Windows 7.
Windows 8 in and of itself isn’t enough to make me buy a new laptop, but the new OS feels a bit more intuitive for those of us who spend our non-working hours on touch screen devices.
I give it a solid 8 / 10 based on my experience so far…I am looking forward to seeing the Surface tablet and maybe being able to ditch my iPad…