by Autum Hughes
Information poverty is an issue that Harper Hill Global and the Women Arise Network are actively working to reduce in developing nations. By equipping women with vital information and the right technologies, Women Arise Network members can teach classes on health, wellness, peace, and dignity, even within the most rural communities.
Ken Kalungi is Harper Hill Global’s Communications Specialist in Uganda and South Sudan. Recently, Ken had the opportunity to co-lead a session with Joice Jaka who is President of United Methodist Women of Uganda and South Sudan. Joice lives at the Rhino Refugee Camp, which is a safe haven for thousands of people seeking refuge after being forced out of their communities.
The Virtual Classroom makes it possible for the classroom to travel to the student, which means that students without Internet connectivity are included. The Virtual Classroom, pictured on the left, consists of a laptop, projector, speaker, portable screen, solar generator and smartphone. It contains animations produced by Harper Hill Global, Firdaus Kharas, and the Global Health Media Project. The content is often re-versioned into additional languages so students learn from local leaders in their own languages. Teachers can utilize the Virtual Classroom both indoors and outdoors, in sunlight or in darkness. Ken traveled from his community of Wobulenzi to Arua, Uganda ― a journey of more than 300 miles or 500 kilometers ― to co-lead a session on disease prevention and sexual violence.
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2019 Women Arise Leadership Training will be held this July in Uganda, and there are at least three other women like Joice who want to attend so they, too, can learn how to reach their communities with potentially life-saving information.
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Ken set up the Virtual Classroom within Rhino Refugee Camp’s open-air church building. After setting up the equipment, he introduced the technology to refugees and began showing them animated short films on health, including “A Plea to My Father,” an animation designed to combat the stigma against survivors of sexual violence. Joice had previously translated and recorded “A Plea to My Father” in Juba Arabic so it could reach people living in the refugee camp. Sixty-eight people from the Rhino Refugee Camp took part in this educational opportunity. After viewing the animations, participants asked questions and started a dialogue about the reality of the everyday issues surrounding them.
The community response to the class and animations was “amazing,” as they watched attentively and freely discussed information afterwards. Joice had the opportunity to use and learn about the Virtual Classroom, as she is waiting to receive her own this July. When Joice receives her Virtual Classroom kit, she hopes to encourage people to learn, value their own voices, and then share their thoughts to help lead others into healthy living. She believes that, using the Virtual Classroom, she can open a forum about difficult issues where people come together through better understanding.