RACHEL comes to Guatemalan schools
Every village came out to greet us.  Balloons, cotton candy, marimba bands, dancing girls (and sometimes guys) and lots of speeches.  Each visit was a celebration – celebrating the arrival of “technology”.  

So, what was this technology that Rotary’s Global Grant 1869459 brought to these remote Mayan villages in NW Guatemala near Barillas?  If you look at the photos, you will see that each school received six laptops and six tablets (the tablets were paid for by the Viaduct Foundation of Vancouver), all nicely lined up on display. 
But the heart of the project was that white round thing in the photos – a RACHEL Plus system.  Each RACHEL Plus has a TB (1000GB) of information, including Guatemalan textbooks and thousands of other reference and reading books, Wikipedia, educational videos and learning games.  The RACHEL generates a WiFi hotspot, so that any laptop, tablet or smartphone in the area can browse through the massive RACHEL library, and download material to read elsewhere.  

Prior to the celebrations, five teachers from each recipient school attended a five-hour course where they learned about RACHEL’s contents.  More importantly, they learned about the SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) approach to teaching.  Rather than the teacher being the source of all knowledge, the teacher asks questions – and the students use the resource material, accessible through RACHEL, to come up with answers.  In our classes, the teachers, acting as if they were students, grouped themselves in threes and fours, and prepared posters to illustrate the question “how do babies breathe in the womb”.  Their enthusiasm at taking on this role, and their subsequent enthusiasm that they imparted to their schools when we delivered the equipment was very exciting.

Four clubs in the Chatham-Kent area donated to the Global Grant, along with a couple of clubs in Washington State and one in California.  We delivered equipment to 14 schools this year, and have funding for 41 more schools over the next couple of years.  Already 25 Barillas-area schools have gone through the paperwork to request RACHELs next year.  And other Rotary clubs are targeting other areas of Guatemala with RACHEL systems.  More celebrations to come.