The Reality in Coaque, Ecuador by Joaquin Bustamante

by mdillard
Jan 31

Coaque is a rural town located in the coastal region of Ecuador. It has suffered dramatically since the deadly earthquake struck the community in 2016. Tufts International Development (TID) has been working with the community since 2016, in collaboration with the NGO Avanti and Libraries Without Borders, to implement Koombook. Koombook is a digital library designed to provide access to educational materials for individuals in remote and isolated areas. We want to help the children in Coaque study, grow and become leaders in their community. Community members travel to center of the town to access the Koombook. It was heartwarming to see the interest among young boys and girls to learn.

This winter’s trip was a follow up trip to interview and talk to multiple members of the community, including community leaders. These gave us valuable insight into how the project is working.

I can recall one girl that had a keen interest in computer programming and the technical industry. However, she had no resources to explore her passion. Talking to them, it was clear that they had an interest in learning, but the issue was accessing resources to explore new topics. The lack of resources in the community prevents them from performing well at school, learning what they are truly passionate about, and becoming advocates for their community.

On this trip, we hired and trained a community facilitator and project liaison. She will be responsible for managing the centers, carrying out homework sessions, as well as conducting presentations based on community interests. While we were doing her training, multiple kids around 8 years old came to use the computers. They were excited while using them. They proactively learned how to use the system and asked us about ways to improve their performance in school. They liked videos that involved nature and animals.

During my time in Quito, I met with Telefonica’s Social Organization department representatives to talk about the project, and the possibility of expansion, redesign, and improvement of the current project. Telefonica is a multinational telecommunication corporation that has ambitious social initiatives and they implement a version of online libraries in rural and isolated communities in Ecuador such as with the Yasuni. Telefonica gave us valuable advice about sustainability and eventual fadeout of the parent organization to allow for the project to function on its own. We hope to establish a relationship with this organization in the future because I believe that we share the same mission and goals and they can help us with our project, as they work directly with the Ministry of Education to provide technical support to schools and students, and they tailor their digital libraries to the needs of the students and the teachers in Ecuador.