Day 4 in Jinja, we have been covering a lot of ground as far as touring all the Hackers For Charity active projects and today I am going to write about The Keep & the Hackerspace.
On a side note, I have really been in an awesome place mentally ever since I have been here. There is something about this place that makes you feel right; I think it's a mix of Johnny and Jen's good vibrations, and the fact that you feel you are actually doing something useful on the ground. I am already dreading the time I will have to go back home.
The Keep is HFC's restaurant and offers an Internet cafÃ© hang-out as well as serving as a coffee place throughout the day. It is located not far from the Jinja House Bed & Breakfast, and is basically the local place where most people volunteering in and around Jinja meet up.
I never expected to see so many "Mzungu"'s (the word used by locals to describe white people) around here. It's mostly volunteers who are here with any of the many NGO's that work in Uganda, and some are women who are here to adopt and as these proceedings take time they are often stranded for a month or two while waiting for the paperwork to come through.
As you walk inside the Keep there is a display of HFC crafts up for sale.
The central bar is really beautiful, and even though they do not server alcohol at The Keep, they have excellent barrista's who can make any type of coffee with masteful skills ! Also ask for their milkshakes which I have to say surprised the hell out of me ;)
The main room inside the Keep has a real Medieval feel to it. That comes from the fact that Johnny is a Dungeons & Dragons fan, and also the arches were there when they got the place and they sort of invited the decor to follow. The tapestries were made by local artists.
Next is a picture of Johnny & me goofing up: We recreated a medieval scene where he knighted me. Almost looks like Blue Team Hacker knighting a Red Team Hacker, though it should be the other way around :)
Alongside the main room of the Keep you can find a space that serves as a Cyber-cafÃ© where locals and visitors alike can use fast speed & unlimited internet.
The kitchen staff are really professionals as they are able to use a relatively small space to make a really varied menu and I can say for having already tasted most of it that it is very good food. The Trevor fries are fantastic (named after one of the Long's children) !
The Keep is really a magical place that actually serves HFC's purpose in more ways than one. First of all, and even though it is not profit generating as they just break even, it allows for a high number of locals to have steady jobs and income. And just that should be enough as, and I am not exagerating when I say this, it probably is life saving to be able to have a fixed income in this part of the world.
Second the Keep provides for unexpected encounters between people who are all basically here to help out. You get to meet people and brainstorm about all that is being done and out of those talks new ideas arise and are implemented. I have witnessed this firsthand and not a day goes by without this proving to be true. It is also here that most HFC meetings take place, wether its between staff of different projects or between Johnny and newcommers who are trying to help out.
Finally it is a real nice place for all the international volunteers to just hang-out after a hard days work, and at The Keep they find peace and recreation while being tended to by a professional staff. It's almost like being in a family environment: I see people walking in all the time and everyone seems to know everyone, and I'm not just talking about the patrons between themselves, staff and patrons too. Johnny calls it "serving the servants", and I now understand what he meant by it.
The Hacker Space
It has been a while that HFC wanted to follow up the creation of the Training Center with the setting up of a proper Hacker Space. Of course this presented many a challenge but most of them have been overcome and the space is nearly ready to open up !
On that note I will give another shout-out to all the DerbyCon 4.0 staff and attendees who made such a great contribution to HFC this year, just as they do every year.
I got to visit the HackerSpace future location, and it is really a beautiful space located right next to the Training Center, which is really practical.
The space has been rented from a micro-finance company and all HFC is waiting for now to move in is for them to clear the remaining of their stuff from the offices.
In an adjacent stocking area you can see some tools that Johnny has been collecting for the hackerspace, like this wood cutter:
Obviously they will be needing more tools, but all we can do to help will be the subject of another post.
I also got to meet Henry (Follow Henry on Twitter), who will be the man in charge of the HackerSpace. Henry has been a volunteer of HFC's for a while now, and is a hacking enthusiast and has some good coding skills. He was one of the first students of the training center and now he is graduating from University. Just one of the many success stories due to HFC. He is now full time HFC and is moving from Kampala to Jinja to man the space and get it launched.
I met Henry at The Keep, and we got to hang out.
Johnny is very demanding of all the HFC staff and he keeps a tight control on all equipments donated. Here we see Henry signing off on an Android phone he was getting. I was even asked to sign as a witness :)
I did not get to bring any useful gear with me to donate to HFC this time around, as I did not know what they had or what they needed. But one thing I was pretty sure they did not have was a Leap Motion, so I donated mine to the HackerSpace and here we see Johnny and Henry experimenting with it.
You might be wondering about the differences about the Training Center and the Hacker Space. Well the Training Center's main goal is education sustenance. It is there to bring education to support people in getting jobs, or to support those wanting to get a better job by developing better computer skills. The Training Center offers basic courses such as Adobe, Word, Excel and such. It is there to serve people who are not necessarily interested in computers, but who need the knowledge as their main focus is survival.
The Hacker Space will help those whose main focus is technology. It will allow them to better themselves and expand their knowledge base in information technology, but also to explore new areas such as robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, electronics and so on.
The programs offered in the Hacker Space will also be more advanced: Networking, hardware programming ect...
The reason it took five years for HFC to decide that it was time for a Hacker Space is that at the beginning of their work here, they did not feel that there was a need nor demand for one. But as the years passed by, they realised that the potential was there, especially with the students who started out at the Training Center and who now wanted more of technology.
From all that I saw, I know that the Hacker Space will be a success and that it will meet all the goals Johnny has set for it.
Next post will be about the Leather arts & crafts that the HFC team hand makes in their workshop. And I can tell you right now, you will be amazed !
That is all for now, thank you for reading and please spread the word.