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From executive IT support to helping people use laptops for the first time: my time as a Vodafone Foundation Instant Network volunteer

28 Apr 2016Vodafone Foundation news
5 minute read

To mark International Telecoms Union’s Girls in ICT Day on 28 April 2016, Kelly-Tenille Mathurin, a member of the ICT support team working for Vodafone Group, shares her experiences working as a volunteer deploying the Vodafone Foundation's Instant Network.

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On Monday 14 March 2016, I left the UK for my first mission as a Vodafone Foundation Instant Network volunteer. We were dispatched to Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. I was both excited and anxious but also very much looking forward to it.

Our aim was to set up two of the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Schools and train local teachers in how to use the technology. My day job is providing IT support to senior executives so this was a completely new experience.

On Thursday we visited the camp ahead of training. What struck me about the camp was the size and particularly the number of tents lined up with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) logo. Nyarugusu is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, home to more than 160,000 refugees. I was told that some 50,000 Burundians that had arrived in 2015 were living in tents and that some of the other inhabitants had lived at the camp for as long as 20 years.

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A scene from the camp in Dadaab depicting the accomodation in the camps

Friday was our first official day of training. The Instant Classroom is a ‘school in a box’ containing tablets, a projector and other equipment needed to set up a classroom. We met with 20 teachers from the Amani Primary School, only one of whom had used a computer before. None had ever used a tablet or heard of the internet.

When we asked what they would like find out about in the world using the internet, one asked to see the president of Tanzania. When the picture appeared on the projector there was a lot of excitement in the room – I got the impression this was the first time many were seeing the president.

Each teacher was given a tablet and taught the basics, such as how to swipe, tap and navigate the device. We then left them to play around with them. A few teachers soon found the music app. A couple of the teachers also quickly learned to take selfies! After lunch, we showed them how to use a laptop, connect to the internet and set up the projector and audio device.

The next day, we were able to visit the two schools at the refugee camp.

All of the children were very pleased, excited and so appreciative. Although few could speak English, it was clear that they were relieved that the kit had arrived and that we were there to help them learn. That brought tears to my eyes.

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Children from the Amani Primary School

After the weekend we returned to the schools and were pleased that the groups remembered how to set the kit up themselves, including logging on to the laptop and connecting the projector and audio system. I then worked with the teachers, showing them basic keyboard skills, such as typing a capital letter. Someone even asked how to make a space in between words.

On our final day of training we watched the teachers deliver a lesson to the children using the Instant Classroom. As a team we were very impressed, considering that only a few days earlier most of them had never used a computer! It was a great feeling to know that they had learned so much within two-and-a-half days.

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It was an amazing experience. One I will never forget. Even though our days were long, as well as emotionally and physically draining, it was all worth it. I learned and saw a lot in such a short space of time.

I am pleased and honoured to have been chosen for this mission. Although there were just four of us from the Vodafone Foundation, there were also Carolyn, Rena and Andrew from UNHCR amongst others that helped manage this project. They had long days but always greeted us with a smile each morning they picked us up. We also met people working on other projects out there, such as a couple of guys from the BBC. I want to do more to help, but sometimes do not know where to start. I think my whole team has that feeling. For now I will keep volunteering to help the Vodafone Foundation projects.

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Pictured left to right: Carolyn Akello (UNHCR), Martine James (World Reader), Becky Telford (Vodafone Foundation), Alex Toader (Vodafone Foundation), Justin Waller (Vodafone Foundation), Rena Komiya (UNHCR), Jacqueline Strecker (UNHCR), Kelly Mathurin (Vodafone Foundation), Andrew Msabaha (UNHCR)

UNHCR estimates that there were nearly 60 million displaced people worldwide in 2014. More than half are under the age of 18<sup>1</sup>. The average amount of time a young refugee is displaced from his or her home is 17 years, according to UNHCR<sup>2</sup>. Many young people are born and raised in the closed environment of camp with minimal contact with the outside world and little or no access to quality education.

Vodafone is bringing connectivity to large parts of Africa and the Vodafone Foundation seeks to mobilise schools which work in refugee camps within Vodafone's markets, bringing critical educational resources to the people who need them most. The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Schools programme will benefit at least 62,000 children and young people by the end of 2016. The Vodafone Foundation has a target to champion the education of refugee girls, targeting a potential three million young people in refugee camps across Vodafone’s markets by 2020, as part of its commitment to the UN Women HeforShe programme.

A short video of the Vodafone Foundation Instant Classroom being set up (and a second, including an overview of the programme and some footage at the Dadaab refugee camp) can be found here:


To find out more about Girls in ICT, visit

  • Africa
  • Technology
  • Vodafone Foundation

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