OLPCorps TulaneSPHTM SierraLeone

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If you want to learn more about our project, our team members, our budget, or how to donate, visit our main website at http://sites.google.com/site/olpckenema.

Also, if you want to contact us, you can email OLPCinKenema@gmail.com.

The US-based team includes two masters of public health (MPH) students and a recent MPH graduate from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and a masters student in Civil & Environmental Engineering (Water Resources) from the University of California Davis. This team brings together rich backgrounds and experiences in educational development and international public health. Local staff includes a local computer technician and the staff at Defense for Children International-Sierra Leone (DCI-SL; http://www.dci-is.org/). The MPH team members also have extensive experience in Kenema and university support.

Our partner organization, DCI-SL, works to promote children’s rights through advocacy, empowerment and education. Sierra Leonean children continue to recover from the 1991-2001 Civil War. In July 2007, the government of Sierra Leone passed a Child Rights Act (http://www.sierra-leone.org/Laws/2007-7p.pdf) greatly expanding the legal rights of children. During this critical time in Sierra Leone’s history, DCI-SL is working to translate legal action into a paradigm shift with regards to the treatment of children. Their programs help DCI-SL to connect to children, open doors of communication and increase awareness of unjust situations. Introducing the OLPC Program would connect more children to DCI and to reinforce this national movement.

During a needs assessment carried out during summer 2008, the MPH students interviewed DCI-SL, learning of their efforts towards and recommendations for improving health and human rights in Kenema. In addition to providing advocacy and financial support to children in the justice system, DCI-SL implements a computer skills training program attracting 50-60 children each day. However, with limited funding and resources, they are currently unable to expand the program to include younger children. In addition to funding, DCI-SL noted the need for health education programs and enhanced educational systems. Though they desperately want to attend, a large proportion of Kenema’s children do not have the money for summer school. With an aim to learn technological skills, improve health, and promote education, this program to provide and introduce Kenema’s vulnerable children to OLPC computers would match the organization’s and children’s needs.

Our aim would be to target the vulnerable children with whom DCI-SL is already working, building on the relationships and connections already established. Furthering our goal to target vulnerable children, we would then reach out to high-risk families that are involved in other local organizations. These organizations would possibly including Ben Hirsh, a local organization that works with street children, or Conciliation Resources, an international organization that promotes community peace building with a special focus on children and youth. By working closely with these organizations, the community will become more invested in the program and the children will become better integrated into the community’s social support networks.

Participants would be self-selected, focusing on children ages six to twelve. Once the children are equipped with laptops, we would set aside two weeks to train them on the laptops’ full functionality (http://wiki.laptop.org/images/5/5d/Learning_Manual_V2.pdf). Younger children would be taught in the morning and older children in the afternoon, and we would encourage education and technology students from Kenema’s Eastern Polytechnic Institute (EPI) to be involved in training/mentoring. Each child will be encouraged to invite a family member to accompany him/her during the course. The curriculum will focus on engaging the students in activities that help them to learn the power of the laptops firsthand. After the children are trained, we will ask them to come up with a relevant health issue that they will then research and present upon. We will work with them for a few days so that they can brainstorm topic ideas, create research questions, and identify learning objectives. Some ideas include: mapping the distance between clean water sources in their neighborhood, learning how to protect against Lassa Fever, or investigating the nutritional composition of their diet. Whatever they choose, they will work with a relative on their project and present their findings to the other participants through a multimedia (song, pictures, movies, etc.) presentation using their XO laptops.

By working with a family member, we hope to encourage sharing and collaboration. We found a desperate need for adults to have computer skills. A child, gifted with time, energy, and innate ability to learn through new and creative means, could be a catalyst, inspiring and empowering their whole family.

Fortunately, the children could continue their involvement with DCI year-round, and assuming the success of the first year, DCI would welcome subsequent distribution efforts. Additionally, each summer Tulane students who travel to Kenema would be eager help support the local team. Various fundraising opportunities exist through Tulane and DCI networks.


Tulane SPHTM Sierra Leone Program

Item Cost per person Number of people Total cost
Plane tickets USA to Rwanda to Sierra Leone roundtrip = $2,699 (KM) and $2950 (KR)

USA to Sierra Leone roundtrip = $1,777 (CW) and $1850 (JK)





Visas $131 per US citizen 4 $524
Malaria medications $40 per person 4 $160
Food and accommodations Room = $4/night (2 people/room at Pastoral Centre, Kenema)

Food = $4/day





In-country transportation Transportation from airport to Freetown = $150/person roundtrip 4 $600
In-country transportation Transportation in Kenema = $50/person 4 $200
City Power $5/day 50 $250
Solar Panels to supplement Power $25 10 $250
Fuel for generator $4.50/gallon 30 $135
Tools (crimping wire, screwdrivers) 1 $20
Computer/Internet Equipment
Access Points $110 2 $220
LAN cabling/ Network wire $15 per 100 ft cable 1 $15
USB Memory Sticks, 2GB $14 5 $70
Router/Modem $175 1 $175
Power Strips $5 for 6 outlet strip 12 $60
Extension Cables $10 for 25ft outdoor cable 12 $120
Internet $400 start up + $10/month for 12 months $520
Stipend for local technology support $250 for 9 weeks of support 1 $250
Miscellaneous expenses 7.5% of final budget $1,078
Total $15,548+

+ Due to the high cost of international transportation, the team will work to raise the additional expenses through local networks, school funding, and other available resources.

The United States Team

Emily Cercone is a second year masters of public health student, focusing on international health and development. She worked last summer in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Emily's interests include learning French, decorating Ukrainian eggs, and listening to Coldplay. She hails from Buffalo, New York, USA.

Katie McCarthy is a recent graduate of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where she focused on international public health. She was also worked in Kenema last summer. Currently, she is working as a project assistant organizing patient recruitment into a study to improve doctor patient communication about cancer prevention in community-based health clinics in New Orleans. She enjoys Wawa, decorating her room with Mardi Gras throws, and watching old movies. She hails from Audubon, Pennsylvania, USA.

Katie Robinette is also a second year masters of public health student, focusing on international health and development and also spent the summer in Sierra Leone. She is a strong supporter of women's rights and wants to work to improve women's health. This March, she was the coordinator for the Tulane SPHTM/SOM Vagina Monologues, proceeds of which support Women with a Vision, a local NGO. Her activities include being an Officially Ordained Clergy Person of the Church of Spiritual Humanism, learning Arabic, and listening to YoYo Ma. She hails from Yucaipa, Califonia, USA.

Chelsea Williams is a recent graduate of the MPH program at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where she studied emergency humanitarian aid in the International Health and Development department. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Development Studies with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa from UC Berkeley. She is originally from San Marcos, TX and has an undying passion for SciFi novels, crime procedural television shows, traveling, and public health programs.

James Kohne is a Masters student in Water Resources Engineering at UC Davis. His current research is a hydrodynamic comparative analysis of several simulation models commonly used to simulate flow conditions in the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta. As the PR Chair, he plays an active role in his schools chapter of Engineers without Borders and spent the previous summer with the organization implementing their projects in rural Nkokonjeru, Uganda. He grew up in Piedmont, California.

Our Local Partner

Defence for Children International - Sierra Leone (http://www.dci-is.org/)


Defence for Children International is dedicated to ensuring on-going, practical, systematic and concerted international action directed towards promoting and protecting the rights of the child, as articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), its optional protocols, and all the other human rights instruments.


Children should enjoy and exercise their rights in a just and responsible society.


DCI-Sierra Leone Hosts First National Conference on Juvenile Justice in Freetown. With the adoption of the new Child Rights Act 2007, Sierra Leone joins the ranks of countries with strong legislation to promote and protect the rights of children in the justice system. With this framework in place, DCI-Sierra Leone held a conference to explore and reflect on the strategies for ensuring that laws and policies translate into reality for children in Sierra Leone.

The conference was entitled “National Conference on Juvenile Justice: A Practical Approach” and took place from March 19-20, 2009 in Freetown (http://www.dci-is.org/db/nl/up_files/DCI-SL_conference.pdf).

Background of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a country of 6.2 million people located on the West African coast. Despite its tropical climate, beautiful beaches which might fuel a tourist economy, and abundance of natural resources (diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, and chromite), Sierra Leone ranks last in the world on the 2008 United Nations Human Development Index, with a life expectancy of 41 years and literacy rate of 35%. Following independence from Great Britain in 1961, years of ineffectual and sometimes corrupt government, compounded by foreign influences, eventually culminated in civil war in 1991. The war resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, displacement of more than 2 million people, and destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure before finally ending, with the intervention of UN Peacekeepers, in 2002. Democracy in Sierra Leone is now slowly being reestablished, with peaceful elections in 2007, and the infrastructure being rebuilt.

Background of Experience in Kenema, Summer 2008

Purpose of Project

Currently, many public health organizations work in Kenema town. However, with the end of the war in 2001 and the development phase beginning, many emergency non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are currently winding down their projects or have pulled out of the area. The withdrawal of so many agencies, UN peacekeepers included, is creating a tremendous void in the healthcare system and the availability of resources, particularly where human rights are concerned.


This investigation and report was a collaboration during summer 2008 between Tulane MPH students (Katie McCarthy, Katie Robinette, Emily Cercone), a Sierra Leonean healthcare worker, and Tulane faculty, which will be referred to as the Practicum Working Group. The group interviewed international and national NGOs working in Kenema District (or those with offices in Kenema town) as well as healthcare leaders, including the district medical officer, nurses in leadership positions and doctors at the government hospital. The interviews were informal but intentional, with a series of specific questions to be answered. From these initial questions, a template was created to organize and categorize the information gathered in order to identify gaps and strengths in the programs’ coverage. After an initial round of interviews with the major international NGOs working in the area, interviews were analyzed to determine common themes and brainstorm specific questions for the local, community-based organizations in order to gain further understanding of where resources were needed. A timeline of activities can be found below.

The group then focused on meeting with smaller organizations and influential leaders in Kenema, and was also able to attend several conferences and meetings. These meetings provided additional insight into the problems and gaps Sierra Leone faces. As observers, the group was able to learn about how individuals within various organizations interact and how problems are discussed between nationals. Through the Human Rights Commission Training, National Disease Surveillance conference, and Human Rights Committee meeting, the dynamic cultural and social factors influencing health and human rights were elucidated.

After extensive interviews with many organizations working on health and human rights, specific organizations were targeted to answer follow-up questions. The line of questioning became more specific and succinct as knowledge of programs offered in Kenema expanded. A series of proposals and ideas for potential programs were determined.

Timeline of Project

Dates Objectives Organizations Interviewed Individuals Interviewed Conferences / Meetings
June 21 - June 27, 2008 Identified major NGO and government organizations; set up relevant interviews; brainstormed questions and created templates Africare, GOAL-Ireland, Conciliation Resources, Planned Parenthood of SL, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Faba Memorial Theater Group, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Kenema District Medical Officer, Lassa fever ward nurse
June 30 - July 4, 2008 Continued scheduled interviews and followed up on leads provided by previous interviews; created NGO connections map Marie Stopes, Caritas-Kenema (I), SL Red Cross Society (I), Reproductive Health Group (I), Defence for Children Intl.-SL (I), International Rescue Committee (IRC), National Commission on Social Action, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tulane University Medical Student Kenema Peripheral Health Unit monthly meeting
July 7 - July 12, 2008 Began organizing, integrating, and synthesizing interviews; continued with interviews and follow up questions Caritas-Kenema (II), GOAL-Ireland, Humanist Watch Community Health Officer, Lassa fever ward nurse National Human Rights Commission Training of Traditional Leaders in the Eastern Province
July 14 - July 18, 2008 Continued synthesis of interviews National Quarterly District Surveillance Officer Conference
July 21 - July 26, 2008 Analyzed information gathered; brainstormed recommendations for future projects Medical doctor Human Rights Committee meeting
July 28 - August 1, 2008 Follow up interviews; analysis of interviews Action Plus, Family Support Unit (FSU) (I), Defence for Children Intl.-SL (II), Conciliation Resources (II), Women's Coalition, Rainbow Center KGH matron, KGH pediatrician and doctor for Rainbow Center Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers Validation Meeting
August 4 - August 11, 2008 Completed follow up meetings and planned for proposal FSU (II), SL Red Cross Society (II), Reproductive Health Group (II), Action Plus (Kenema and Freetown) (II) Medical doctor, Lassa fever ward nurse