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Andrew Baron
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The Butterfly Effect Center, a Humanwire school for Syrians in Lebanon: Every desk equipped with Raspberry Pi

I’m excited to tell you about the progress we’ve been making at Humanwire on the education front.

The Lebanese are overly generous in extending their social services to Syrians in need. They’ve committed to provide public education for all Syrian refugees.

One major hurdle to providing Syrians with continuing education in Lebanon is the lack of congruence in curricula. While the Lebanese typically learn in Arabic, French and English, the Syrians only learn in Arabic. Thus an apt 4th grader from Syria would typically have a hard time with classes taught in English or French.

Another major hurdle to continuing education is a matter of lost time. A child from Syria who fled war in the 6th grade, and then remained out of school for two or three years would be far behind and socially stuck with 3rd graders who could out perform, likely leading to a negative and disruptive environment all around.

There is also a capacity issue. Lebanon has received the greatest ratio of Syrians, an unfathomable amount for such a small country. I thought it was one out of every five but I heard the UNHCR chief say a week ago that one out of every three people now in Lebanon fled Syria.

If you wonder where you would get the funds to increase your country’s education budget by 33% after all of your other services have been strained, keep wondering.

The Lebanese decided on a clever solution. Lebanese children attend school during the day as they have always done, uninterrupted, and then open up their schools to Syrians in the evening for a separate, second shift.

Sadly, we are learning in the process that the public school offerings for Syrians in the valley are severely below par relative to other areas. Some schools are good…it seems most are not at all.

When there is no legal mandate and education is not a priority for a family, friction becomes compounded and it’s difficult to keep kids engaged and in school.

One alternative is private schooling. Humanwire can place a student in a private school for approximately $250/mo per child. But this is cost prohibitive in most cases.
It did not take long to realize that there is a massive gap that must be filled.

And so, the most progressive solution we have come up with is to create a supplement.

Named The Butterfly Effect, Humanwire is building a school in Lebanon.

We’ve obtained our first space near many of the camps we host in order to help mitigate the additional transportation problems, set up our first curricula, ordered our equipment, and are in the final stages of hiring before launching our first classes next month.

Every school desk is equipped with a Raspberry Pi computer and our first two courses will be Arabic and Computer Code.

The composition for our first classes will start off with kids ages 8-10 on one track and 10-12 on a second.

99% of all of the refugees we have been working with have no internet access and have never used a computer.

A center will offer terminals for families to use the internet, work with computer applications, communicate and learn. Games on PlayStations and Xboxes will likely be the first time slots to book up.

We’re also beginning to build a local library of offline resources and classes for children and adults, everything from “how to” videos for people who can not read (e.g., resources for delivering a baby, legal rights, hygiene) to web resources (e.g. how to use the web, applying for asylum, other classes, social media)

The intent is to address the large problems mentioned above head on.

The course in Arabic is specifically designed to act as a “catch-up” course for kids who we can enroll in public school this fall and are behind by years.

The coding course will teach computer programming and will be deeply connected with physical computing concepts. Students will create games and stories and then present their work at the end of each term.

Our goal is to offer a supplement and eventually an alternative to the $250/mo per-child fee for a cost of just $25/mo per child.

Can the flap of a butterfly’s wings set off a tornado?

In partnership with the International Education Association (IEA)/Lebanon, we will be using @Pi4L [ ], an e-learning program that was successfully piloted with Syrian refugees in Beirut from July 2014 to April 2015.

In addition to the Raspberry Pi stations, we will be using KA Lite, an offline application optimized to function as a delivery tool without the need for continuous internet connectivity using the teachers’ laptops as local servers.

We’ll also use Scratch, developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Media Lab) which serves as an introduction to visual programming.

If you do not code yourself, you may have noticed that people tend to pick it up very quickly and remain in demand with above-average salaries relative to those who require many more years of training and experience.

Unlike many professions, if you can code, nobody cares what you have accomplished in the past or what kind of certificates you have. If you can code, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what kind of social skills you have. If you can code, you can program your way out of your condition from anywhere in the world.

[EXTRA NOTE: We have many children on the site in Lebanon who have not yet been hosted. As a host, it costs $0 to create a campaign and raise a bit of money for education through your network. For anyone who hosts a family through Sunday Feb 14th, we'll get your kids access to the school resources and get them in line for classes as soon as they begin at a rate of $25/child per month, and absorb the rest of the investment costs ourselves (after the 14th the current cost will be closer to $75 until we increase course offerings while reducing cost/per expenses. If you can not host a refugee yourself, you can still flap your wings and inspire a friend: ]
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Check out this video of the Los Angeles fire today on the 1 Pacific Coast Hwy
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