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NetHope Academy Graduates 39 Haitian IT Professionals

by: Frank Schott on 03/23/2011


“We are very pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in the NETHOPE Academy Intern Program which will begin on September 13, 2010.”That mail, from Mrs. Marlene Sam, has launched the career of many of us. From that moment, Microsoft certificates, trainings and a whole six-month internship were provided unto us. It all seemed like a dream to us.“ Those were the words of Emmanuella Stimphat as she recalled those first days with the NetHope Academy in Haiti.
 
Today I had the privilege of attending the NetHope Academy Graduation ceremonies in Haiti. For those of you that don’t know about what our team did, it was a program that was badly needed and filled with obstacles. But we came together and made it happen.
 
Fast Facts
 
The program is easy to explain. We wanted to help a bunch of young Haitians become more employable while at the same time begin rebuilding the IT sector in Haiti. The metrics for success are also fairly straightforward.
 
Here are the numbers:
• We targeted 30 youth for the initial program. A total of 39 young people were admitted and we found 6 month internships for every one of them.
• We committed to working with the interns so that 27 would earn their MCDST designation. So far 30 have done the hard work to pass both tests for this highly valued certification.
• MOST IMPORTANTLY, we told donors that we would work hard to get full time employment for 24 or more of the interns by June 30, 2011. As of today (March 18) the interns have made it happen with 26 having full time offers … and we are not resting until every one of them has a job in the IT sector.
 
I know these are just numbers but if you think about a few more numbers it will bring home how important the work of the NetHope Academy has been.
 
The AVERAGE annual salary of a NetHope Academy graduate so far is $14,000 a year. The annual GDP salary of an adult Haitian is $1,900!!!
 
The Graduation Ceremony
 
Marlene Sam and our supporters at Voila Foundation did an amazing job preparing for the Graduation Ceremony which took place at the Ritz Kinam II in Port-au-Prince on March 18, 2011. Over 200 people attended including the 39 interns (2 were late because they were applying for jobs) along with their families, our Haitian partners and the media. One small issue that threatened to disrupt our Ceremony … exiled former President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, surprised all by returning to Haiti that same day, just 2 hours before our Ceremony. Obviously he wasn’t coming for the Graduation! It was unsettling and tense however.
 
The Graduates dressed in rented robes. I have no idea how Marlene found them but they all looked so good. We took pictures and then the ceremony began.
 
Before the Ceremony, the graduates elected Patrick Attie, as the “godfather” of the day. Patrick was the very first person who we reached out to with our idea for the program. Later he told me that he was very skeptical but he was going to support anyone who had the passion that we showed. Patrick and Marlene both gave opening remarks. And I got up to say a few words. I don’t remember exactly what I said but I do know that I recognized both Patrick and Marlene Sam, our Haitian Program Coordinator saying “I could look all over the developing world for years and never find anyone as passionate and hard working as the two of you”. Then the Graduation certificates were awarded. I was so proud to stand up there with each and every one of the Graduates.
 
Bill Brindley, NetHope’s CEO told the Graduates and their families that many NetHope member organizations and corporate partners came together to make this day possible. Bill made a special point of recognizing our Haitian partners — ESIH and Voila Foundation.
 
Bernard Fils-Aime, the President of Voila Foundation made some remarks talking about the Foundations long time commitment to helping disadvantaged youth in Haiti. He went on to say “We are honored to work alongside you at the NetHope Academy and look forward to working with you on other projects that bring lasting benefits to the Haitian people. “ That’s music to my ears Bernard!!!
 
Two Graduates were elected to speak on behalf of the group. . Pierre and Emmanuella were amazing and spoke from the heart. Pierre said “The graduation ceremony represents for us a step towards a career that requires sacrifice and boundless determination”. And Emmanuella stood tall and in near perfect English recited what the program meant to her. She said “Aim plus motivation +plus efforts minus discouragement: this is the recipe that each and every one of the graduates has used to take full advantage of the first semester at NETHOPE Academy
 
Keith Chifaba from World Vision was one of the IT mentors and spoke eloquently about how the interns dramatically enhanced World Vision’s food distribution program through their support of the Last Mile Mobile Solution project.
 
Lutz Ziob, Microsoft General Manager for the Learning unit encouraged the interns to be life long learners. He reminded them of how quickly technologies change and shared his personal passion for being part of such a fast moving industry. In a moment of levity he also told them that they had accomplished something that Bill Gates never did – they graduated!
 
And then Lisa Obradovich from Accenture Development Partners made the big announcement for the day. “It gives me great joy to announce, that because of YOUR outstanding performance, Accenture and Accenture Foundations have made a commitment to fund the NetHope Academy Intern program for the next TWO YEARS in Haiti!!” She went on to say “In addition, because of your work, Accenture and Accenture Foundations have made a commitment to expand the program into Sub-Saharan Africa starting next year!!!!”
 
 
Random Musings About the Day
• We were honored to have the American Ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten join us at the Ceremony. He no doubt had other things on his mind but he came anyway. After the Ceremony he was besieged by the press for comments on Aristide’s arrival.
 
• Karen Barsamian from World Food Programme made a surprise announcement at the Graduation Reception. WFP and NetHope will select two NetHope Academy graduates to attend the 2 week long Emergency Telecom Training in Pisa Italy. The training is ALL EXPENSES PAID BY WFP including airfare, lodging and food. To say the graduates were excited is an understatement.
 
• There were so many special moments. Perhaps the most special time for me was seeing the parents greet the graduates immediately after the ceremony. The room was overflowing with pride.
 
• Many many thanks to Voila Foundation as this program could not have happened without their support. And ESIH, Accenture, Microsoft and Cisco. And the 17 host organizations that took on interns.
 
See the Wired magazine write up on the Graduation ceremony at http://haitirewired.wired.com/profiles/blogs/nethope-internship-program
– Frank Schott, NetHope global program director