Kelly-Tenille Mathurin is one of our Instant Network Volunteers. She has been deployed twice on Instant Network Schools missions to refugee camps in Tanzania (2016) and Kenya (2018).
I had always heard great things about the Vodafone Foundation; what they are about, what they want to achieve and what they do. I wanted to join the team so I could contribute to helping those in a less fortunate situation. To help improve their education and also help people in countries going through a natural disaster.
In Tanzania the actual size of the camps was shocking. You could not see beyond the UNHCR tents; they seemed to go on forever. The amount of children in the camps also seemed huge and many of them would come up so they could just talk to you. Everybody was very warm, curious and welcoming.
In Tanzania we deployed the INS kit into some of the classrooms which was sometimes a straightforward process and other times it came with a hitch or two due to the infrastructure in the camps. We taught teachers how to set up the INS kit which included tablets, laptops and projectors, we also showed them how to get onto the internet and advised them on everything that could be done via the internet, the teachers in turn would then teach the students.
In Kenya as the kit had already been deployed we deployed the upgraded educational content, so it was a case of introducing to them the new content and also getting feedback from them as to what changes or new features they would like to see in the future for further benefit.
I would say their life from our perspective looks hard; the heat, living conditions and reasons as to why they are in the refugee camps in the first place, can’t be easy. Looking and talking to the children/teenagers and the teachers you would not think that this is the case and I guess that a lot of this is to do with the fact that many of them were born in the camps so this is the life that they know. They appeared to be happy which came with lots of smiling, laughter, chatting, playing, curiosity. The students are ambitious and focused, they asked many questions about us and our lives back home.
Instant Network Schools allows students and teachers to reach out to the world beyond the refugee camp. It allowed them to see a picture of their prime minister from their native homes, listen to music, play games but more importantly to be introduced to educational content via equipment many had never seen before such as laptops and tablets. I can imagine they went home after the first day full of excitement about their future and the realisation of what else is out there in the world.
If you can cope with long days and the emotional ups and downs then definitely volunteer. It can involve some frustration because sometimes things just do not go according to plan but you get there in the end and if you don’t manage to do it within the time that you are there then the next team to be deployed will most likely pick that up so plans do eventually come through.
There is a great team spirit in deployment. You are all working together to accomplish things for the schools, teachers and students so it is very rewarding when you manage to achieve it and you get to see the smiles on all of their faces.