Solar Powered Educational Learning Library

SolarSPELL Influence in Vanuatu: letter from Nancy, Peace Corps Volunteer

Nancy, a Peace Corps Health Volunteer in Vanuatu, shares her experience using the SolarSPELL digital library in her village during her service:
Early in my service, two teenaged girls who were home on school break came to me needing help with a research assignment.  There were no books or reference materials of any kind in the village to help us with their assignment. A week later, I was on the other side of the island at a school telling another volunteer of our limited resources. She immediately offered their SolarSPELL digital library to me since they recently had a computer lab installed at the school.
Since bringing SolarSPELL to the village, there have been several opportunities to put it to use. Children home on school break are so bored after a few days in the village and come find me, asking to watch some videos. Sometimes I steered them towards Cyclone Pam news coverage just to grab their attention. Other times, they selected their own topics. In the group girl photo (below), the girls are watching a math video, pausing it to work out the problems. At times, children have come for homework help.  They’ve usually used computers very minimally so with a little help they are quick learners in Wikipedia for research; I hang close by to help them along.
I’ve also worked with the librarian to learn to use SolarSPELL.  Liewia is a young woman who volunteered to look after the books and small library we started.  I explained to her that as the librarian it is important for her to know how to find things in the library so that she can help others, this includes the SolarSPELL digital library.  She had no computer experience so I first oriented her to navigating the different tabs.  We then worked with wikipedia a good bit.  I asked her to make up five questions for me to answer so that I could gauge her skills as I had absolutely no idea where to start with her.  I was unable to answer her questions as she had written them and we talked through why.  After this, we took turns writing up questions for each other as she slowly became more familiar with searching within wikipedia.  We discussed plans for her to use these questions as a game and teaching tool with the students when they are home on school break.
Finally, I used the health resources in the SolarSPELL digital library many times to look up health issues that people were experiencing in the village.  For example, one baby girl had diarrhea.  The mom had taken the girl to the clinic and then asked me for more information.  Using the searchable medical references, I was able to suggest food that the mom could feed her in addition to the meds the doctor had provided. I also used some materials on toothbrushing to help me think through how to talk with kindergarten students and their parents about this.
My village will hopefully be assigned another Peace Corps health volunteer next year, after a break of one year, in order for them to have time to identify a new village health worker for the village.  My hope is that the new volunteer can pick up where I left off and teach this person how to use the wonderful health references in the library.

The SolarSPELL team meeting Nancy in summer 2017

When I first got to my village and there were absolutely no materials to work with, other than what I carried in myself, I was at a loss at times.  Once we had the SolarSPELL digital library, I had some resources. I’d like to thank Dr. Hosman for developing the SolarSPELL digital and for working to get it to remote places such as my village.