Digital Guyana

Posts Tagged ‘Merundoi

Yesterday was the first day on the ‘Web Skills’ part of the ‘Web Skills Guyana’ programme. The flash course has now ended at Merundoi, sadly, though fortunately I will be seeing the Merundoi team today as Hugh and I have been assigned their group. With these guys I could not have asked for a better group of students. Their enthusiasm to learn has been great and they really impressed me with all the progress they made. Course materials will be uploaded to a wiki in good time.

Teaching

Me teaching

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Ayana and Shaheed at work

Teaching out here is a great experience. The night we finished the course Wayne, one of staff at Merundoi, mentioned that this is probably the first time that animation has ever been taught in Guyana. The enormity of that statement is still sinking in. I suddenly realise that this is more than just a free holiday and it feels as if I might be affecting at least the start of making a real difference out here. I also understand why when people come out here they stay for years; the minimum amount of time I’ve heard of a ‘true’ volunteer out here has been twelve months. So much has been achieved by us out here all ready, but it’s only a taster of what can be done if the programme were to be extended. Especially since the animation course has been so short it feels like such a shame to leave it there. Although I was teaching the representative from the local university too, Denise, I think without having some kind of follow up for my course it’s assimilation into the curriculum may be quite difficult.

Kojo, Kiki and Richard at work

Kojo, Kiki and Richard at work

Having information that I have prepared and taught entering the national curriculum of Guyana is incredible. Sustainability as I have mentioned may be a slight issue, but nothing more could have been expected from a four day animation course and a lot of people out here are treating it as a pilot scheme.

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Everybody at Merundoi

In other news Hugh and I went to a local club in a secondary school where they played a mixture of cheesy 70’s and 80’s music like Madonna – touched for the very first time, an inordinate amount of Michael Jackson and a whole lot of soca music. The age range was about 15-50 and was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced out here. I also patted a manitee on the snout and had a Lariam-induced dream about astral projection.

Hi, I’m Hugh. I also heard about this project through an email forwarded from the station manager at Resonance FM, where, like Matt, I volunteer as a broadcast assistant and programme maker.

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The opportunity to travel and share my skills in a far-flung locale sounded really exciting and after doing some research – yes, I Googled Guyana – I applied. I was intrigued by the fact that the country is thought of as part of the Caribbean yet borders Brazil and Venezuela. The ethnic split of Indian and Afro-Caribbean also piqued my interest. (I’d always wondered why cricketers of Indian descent like Shivnarine Chanderpaul – who, by the way, has a street named after him here in Georgetown – ended up playing for the West Indies. And now I know. And, while we’re on the subject, other famous Guyanese include Eddy Grant of The Equals and Electric Avenue fame, cricketer Clive Lloyd and, er, Shakira Caine, wife of Michael Caine and Miss Guyana 1967.)

My web development skills aren’t as technical as the other members of the team but my experience working as a journalist, often online, and a youth worker nicely compliments the other talents we bring.

Back in the UK I’m based in north London. Most of my writing is for the arts and culture section of thelondonpaper and I’ve also worked as a subeditor and in online production for clients including The First Post and the BBC. Since last September I’ve volunteered as a youth worker for east London charity Toynbee Hall, working with 13-14-year-olds on the Aspire project on radio workshops, citizenship and outdoor activities. This has recently led to paid sessional work with a charity called Headliners, which works with young people to produce journalism, where I start working after I return from Guyana.

This week I’ve been helping Matt teach basic animation with the Flash programme at local NGO Merundoi, who produce a highly entertaining and hugely popular twice weekly radio soap which promotes Aids awareness. See Matt’s previous post on how the course has gone (very well).

From next week Matt and I, plus Pontus and Chris (who arrive in the wee hours tonight), will be doing workshops with school pupils, teachers and youth groups on a variety of web skills. The workshops I’m leading focus on photo editing with the open source Gimp programme and what makes good web content and design, plus specialisms which will look at these areas in more detail.

Expect to see many more posts from the four of us in the coming days and weeks.

Greetings, I’m Matt Gaffen and here’s my introduction.

I’m afraid a picture isn’t available at this juncture, but I’m sure you’ll catch sight of me at some point soon. Here’s the face of some kind of frog person I drew before coming out here instead;

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I caught wind of this project through Resonance FM (London’s first art radio station, don’tcha know?) at which I volunteer doing a variety of small jobs to help keep the station running. An e-mail from the station mentioned this fantastic opportunity teaching web design and animation in Guyana. I had experience in both fields and thus replied to it right away.

I am the animation specialist of this course and have come out a week early with Hugh (the our teams’ fourth member) in order to teach a concentrated four-day ‘slab’ course in Adobe Flash (animation software). More details to follow

As for who I am and what I do; I’m an art student studying at Chelsea College of Art and Design. My degree is in Graphic Design Communication. I’ve been using flash for about five or six years and have a fair amount of experience animating exclusively on personal projects.

I’ve been out in Guyana now for nearly a week with Hugh and am having a great time, having got over the mosquito bites and spouting blood from my nose at every opportunity. Most of the locals are friendly and one of my students has just introduced me to Ultimate Frizbee, which in case you didn’t know is just about the best team sport. Ever.

After being worried a little about course expectations on Monday at Merundoi, the first day went swimmingly well. The students are all engaging with the material, being creative with it and learning the concepts at a fairly impressive pace. Above all they seem happy and some students are actively showing a lot of excitement, so I believe that they will take what they’ve learned further. It has been a really exciting week with a group who could not have been more of a pleasure to teach in any way. To summarize, I feel very satisfied with the work today and with any luck the course will proceed at a similar speed and level of quality.

It’s quite odd being an art student and suddenly being in my tutors’ position. By no means is it not enjoyable though, in fact it sells teaching to me a bit.

I have brought two types of malaria medication; Lariam and Doxy. I was asked to bring Doxy in addition to Lariam, which I’d already started at the time, because of it’s incredible side effects which could possibly include hallucinations and a desire to kill oneself! I am still on Lariam, but apart from some enjoyable, vaguely psychedelic dreams I am experiencing no side affects.

One day left of the course now, I shall provide some more details some time tomorrow when it’s all over.

Going to the sidewalk café tonight to listen to live jazz. Hopefully will get at least slightly drunk for the second night running. Am starting to grow a real appreciation for the local rum.

You can check out my personal blog at http://www.mattsdeadcat.blogspot.com. Expect to see most of this copy-pasted there soon.

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