We had our first full session with all of the Kolkata kids yesterday. We’ve got 14 girls and 2 boys signed up—but we are also training staff and hope that new lessons will be added to the computer training schedule already in place. The student are working on 2 iBooks with design and video software. Rupam, the computer instructor is really excited about the Adobe programs—and learning how to add video and photos to the web. We also found out that the website hosting service Trinita was using has been overcharging and not giving good service—so we are going to teach the staff how to create a site on wordpress and make updates. This will save money and allow Trinita to keep updates and information current.
The Trinita organization is just moving into a new office space in the Topsia neighborhood of Kolkata. The space will also house a night shelter for boys working in neighboring factories and be the new home of the computer center.
We can tell already that the kids are really excited about this new space. The official “grand opening” is on Saturday so it’s a fun time to be here. A company in the Netherlands that has been working for four years to make this happen and sponsored the whole building project. This is a big step forward for Trinita.
So we started our Cross Stitch Project introduction by showing the Ning site we created. Ning allows you to create a private social network and allows the moderators—in this case Elizabeth and I—the ability to invite members and control the site content. This will allow some privacy and security for the kids involved—especially for kids who are brand new to the whole Internet experience.
They loved the pictures and learned all of the Grady High School girls’ names. With the language barrier—and the newness of all of this—we still are working on getting the idea across but it’s slowly coming. Then we taught the kids to use a Flip camera. That only took about five minutes. A few of the kids have cell phones and the cameras are similar enough to be unintimidating. The only problem was they didn’t want to film each other—they just wanted to interview us! But—that is only natural. There are not many Anglo visitors to Topsia and so many questions. Here are a few I was asked yesterday: Have you ever seen the Statue of Liberty? What is the national flower of the United States? Do you like being cold? Do you know Obama? Do you know who the Prime Minister of India is? Can we put eye makeup on you?
The answers were: Yes. I’m not sure. Yes. Not personally. Ummm…tell me. Tomorrow.
So today I’m in for some kind of makeover. Alex had a Mendhi design applied to his hand yesterday by Rosi—the makeover queen. She’d also like me to do something about my outfits and it is our belief that we are going to be their first models.
The kids had a ton of fun taking their profile pictures and playing around with all of these new ideas. When they were asked at the end of the session who wanted to stay in the program all hands shot up! These are really bright and inquisitive kids who don’t get many opportunities to see the world outside of their neighborhood. The idea that they are about to make new American friends is really thrilling. Today we are going to teach them how to upload the video and pictures we took yesterday and how they can add to the Ning site. We are going to put the kids with the strongest English in charge of helping and see how well some of the auto translate options work. Language is definitely a challenge—but we are working on strategies that will lesson that gap.
The kids totally understand that this is a fun way for them to practice their technology and English skills—something that might be a ticket out of abject poverty. Alex and Elizabeth haven’t visited any homes yet so they keep saying it is almost surreal to think of these kids as deeply impoverished—since in the classroom they seem just like kids—and that’s exactly what we are aiming for here. Creating a space where these students can—