Enhancing the quality of life of people of developing nations.

Located at the feet of Togo's northern mountains and in the heart of its agricultural region lies the rural village of Farendé. The village is populated by tight-knit familial groups, linked together through strong traditions and a communal agricultural system. Monetary resources in the region are scarce, but families survive off of what they produce.

However, dramatic change has come to the village in recent years, the most visible sign of which is a recent mass exodus of adolescents. These youth drop out of the under-resourced education system and leave their homes in search of economic opportunity in both the country’s urban south and labor camps located in Benin and Nigeria. This phenomenon has deeply affected the local community by reducing the number of its most productive agriculturalists, dimming the adolescents’ future in higher education, and inherently changing the village’s traditional social structure.

Project Description

In response to this recent increase in youth migration, community leaders have been working to install a small computer center with Internet access. Their hope is that it will become a social space for youth, which will discourage youth migration while also serving as a supplement to the village’s lack of educational resources. Farendé’s community development committee has received partial funding for the construction of such a computer center from a local church, but only received enough funds to cover the materials and labor associated with constructing the building that will house the computer center. Therefore, this project seeks to provide the technical and financial support to the village’s current initiative, providing and installing computers, Internet access, and electrical power. The computer center will be the first of its kind to be installed in the region, and provides an exciting opportunity for community development.

Project Details

Powered primarily by solar energy and aiming to be entirely self-sustaining upon its completion, the center functions without placing any economic or environmental burden on the community. The center houses four flat-screen computers, and will be accessible by all community members throughout the week. In order to ensure the financial stability of the center, community members pay a small fee for per-hour usage of Internet, a cost which is comparable to those of computer centers located in nearby cities. The computer center also serves as an academic space for local students, providing information and study materials to hardworking students struggling against a demanding educational system. As this computer center is the first of its kind to be established in the region, the facility draws in members of surrounding communities, serving as a financial boon to the village and its members.

The computer center is not an end, but a means to a brighter future for the village. This new access to information empowers the local community; rather than feeding a cycle of dependency on external aid, this project provides Farendé and its residents the tools that they need to move towards innovation, independent thinking, and progress.

The Computer Center and Education

The installation of the computer center and the provision of Internet access to the community, which is currently without widespread access to electricity, has dramatically improved educational opportunities in the area. The current academic system in rural areas lacks the funds and resources necessary to encourage youth to pursue higher education, which is the reason why so many adolescents choose to leave their natal villages and pursue migrant work opportunities instead. By giving the village Internet access, youth are encouraged to stay in the region and continue with their education, which ultimately increases their capability to contribute to the economic and technological development of Farendé.

Peer Mentorship and Youth Empowerment

The project has culminated in a peer-mentorship program that is the product of multiple years of on-the-ground research. The program provides a sustainable way of empowering local youth over the long term. On a once-weekly basis, youth in the village can access the Internet and communicate directly with their peer mentors, participating in mutual cultural exchange and a collaborative learning experience. Topics covered in the mentorship program  include the opportunities and challenges associated with living in a rural location, the challenges of pursuing higher education regardless of location, and the opportunities and risks associated with youth migrant labor. The primary goal of the mentorship program, however, is not simply for the mentor to provide basic information to their partner. Rather, this program seeks to foster individual connections and provide a sense of support for the Togolese students. Not only has the mentorship program incentivized youth to remain in their villages and pursue higher education, it also serves as a supplemental resource to the demanding yet under-resourced educational system that provides little to its students but requires exceptional performance in order to progress to higher levels.  The center now provides computer classes, and the access to information at the computer center provides the potential to serve as a keystone to academic achievement within Farendé.

About the Project Developers

Kathleen Ridgeway is currently a former undergraduate student at Duke University studying Global Health, focusing on infectious disease in the developing world. Her interest in health in rural areas brought her to Farendé during the summer of 2011, where she conducted a research project related to malaria. She served as the chief liaison between the project and the community, drawing on the connections she has already fostered with key local leaders. She also was the primary coordinator of the peer-mentorship program, recruiting local youth into the program and directing it from the United States upon her return. Her cultural competency with this community will allow her to organize and execute the project with an increased sensitivity to the local culture and its expectations.

Connor Cotton was a former undergraduate student at Duke University, studying Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as Global Health, focusing on infrastructure’s effect on community wellness. He spent a year in an alternative energy systems research laboratory, working with biofuels and solar energy. Over the past few years, he has participated in many volunteer-based construction and renovation projects, serving as a site leader for two in the past year. He has also provided technical support for the computer systems of multiple organizations. He oversaw the final stages of construction, the installation of the technology, and the creation of the computer network and Internet connectivity.

Donation Equivalency

  • $5 will help us light the computer center after dark
  • $10 will help us keep the center cool during the day
  • $100 will buy a used computer that has been repurposed and refurbished for this setting
  • $150 will buy a battery so the computers can stay on when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing
  • $200 will buy an inverter to change the DC current of the solar panels to AC current for the computers to use
  • $300 will buy the back-up generator
  • $700 will pay the salary of the ciber’s manager for one year
  • $1500 will pay for the solar panels
  • $7000 will finance the entire project, forever changing the lives of thousands of people and brightening the future of an entire region.

The Noar Foundation for global community development. 
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