University of Miami Mauritania OLPC
A team of two students have teamed up with Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) in Mauritania to deploy XO laptops to two of the Girls Mentoring Centers (GMCs) across the country. Specifically, we will work with thirty-five 6-12 year old females in Kiffa  and sixty-four in Kankossa  for nine weeks from June-August, 2009. While several GMCs in larger cities have assisted Mauritanian females to further their education via university, there has only been one female in Kiffa known to continue her education at the college level. In addition, working in these two rural sites guarantees 1:1 laptop saturation. We believe access to and ownership of XO laptop technology at a young age will enable females in Kiffa and Kankossa to take control of their education, thus empowering the next generation of African women, their families, and Mauritania. In doing so, OLPC and Peace Corps will help reduce the educational gender gap in Mauritania, while providing students an avenue to develop creatively and academically. The GMCs are currently run by PCVs and local Mauritanian volunteers; while PCVs will remain at the GMCs for one year following our departure, the goal of local, long-term sustainability means these centers will be run solely by Mauritanians in the near future.
We hope to collaborate with other OLPC groups applying to work in Mauritania. Our vision is by connecting students among the various GMC sites via XO laptops, they will serve as motivation for each other. Illiteracy is a challenge for youth in Mauritania. As such, we have organized with the Cornell OLPC group to implement a pen-pal system between our sites to encourage writing, reading, and exploring their own culture in various languages. All 22 GMCs in Mauritania have, or are in the process of getting, internet access. In addition, each has one or more volunteers who serve as technical support for the multi-media and computer classes. This volunteer will provide technical support during our deployment period and will continue to work and maintain the XO laptops at the GMCs following our departure. Every GMC site has several bilingual PCVs who will function as translators between us and the local youth and GMC mentors.
There is an opportunity to introduce XO laptops to a group of 40 Mauritanian females coming to Kankossa in July. Eco-Health Camp facilitates an open dialogue among young females to discuss the environment and other health topics – such as desertification, pollution, and the repercussions of Mauritania importing 70-80% of their food. These conversations take place among 5th and 6th grade girls and are communicated in multiple local languages. While communication with the leaders of this camp is necessary to discuss specific curricular details, access to XO laptop technology could motivate these females to become agents of environmental change.
As students of African and comparative literature, we know the value of documenting oral stories and histories from rural areas of Africa. While this act of documentation is beneficial for reading publics, our primary goal is to inspire youth to value and share their own life stories. We plan to utilize XO microphones to have youth orally recite any personal story they deem important. The paint capabilities of XO could be used to add visual dynamics to oral components. One long-term goal of “My Story” is to have each female transfer her oral story to the written page. Access to “Speak” may serve as motivation for students whose writing skills can enable their XO to literally speak their story. We plan to collect these stories on a collaborative website which could be used by other OLPC groups looking to deploy similar projects in their regions.
We are in the process of fundraising and have written letters to Rotary International, Lions Club International , and Kiwanis International . As former Rotary Youth Exchange Students, Stephanie and Justin have permission to give power point presentations to several Rotary Clubs in district 6220  in conjunction with fundraising for OLPC Mauritania. In addition, we plan to contact and pool resources with several University organizations, such as the African Student’s Union , and Amnesty International UM Chapter .
Laptops will be shipped to Nouakchott and received by PCVs. We will hire a car to transport the laptops to Kiffa. They will then be housed in the Kiffa and Kankossa GMCs.
Peace Corps Letter of Support The Peace Corps letter of support is written out to Stephanie Selvick and her former team member Sydney Owens. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Sydney Owens had to drop out of the OLPC project. As such, Justin Burnett has stepped up to the plate and become Stephanie's new team member.
Travel Blog Stay up to date with our collaborative travel blog! http://africaxo.blogspot.com/