We arrived at Tibiri School this morning with a group of teachers anxious to begin their computer training. Some participated in the training last year and looked forward to learning new things, while others were totally new to the computer and excited to learn skills that we all know will benefit their students in the long run. Joel LaBeau, who lives in Maradi and is an amazing man in every sense of the word, is leading the training thanks to years of working with computers, fixing computers and training others. Our teammate Beth is a computer teacher and quite an expert; she is working alongside Joel alternating teaching and operating a projector and computer during his presentations. Having worked on computers for almost 30 years, I take for granted what little I really know. The things I need to know to do the things I need to do flow very easily with little thought. When is the last time you wondered where exactly the arrow goes when you are bolding a word or phrase? That’s new to many of the participants simply because they have not previously had access to computers, including some of the returning participants. As with anything, if you don’t practice you lose the skills rapidly. What will stick with me is the enthusiasm for learning and the commitment to doing all they can to prepare their students for the life ahead of them.
Beth, Emily and I went to Joel’s home to meet his wife and one month-old son, Calib. His home is very nice, warm, welcoming and comfortable. On the way there Joel explained why he works at the EERN studio, has a business repairing computers, has a business training people on computers, keeps a farm, and runs a business purifying water and selling it. “For Christians in Niger we have always been poor, poor, poor,” Joel said. “Once a potential boss finds out you are Christian in most cases you will not get the job. It is very difficult for Christians to pull ourselves out of poverty. So, I believe it is our generation now which must make the change, which must do what we can to improve our condition. In my water business I employ three people, each Christian … it is a start, it is an opportunity for them. We are making better lives for ourselves, for our children and for the future.” Joel says he does not run the water business (which is family also runs in two other cities) to make profit, which he barely does, but rather to create jobs. “That is what is most important,” he said.