A few weeks ago, I hinted that a few changes were in the works at our Bible school. I was waiting for a couple of different things to fall into place before I posted, but at this point, I think that I can go ahead and outline one of the changes we want to make.
One of the most cumbersome, costly parts of our Bible school ministry has to do with the books our students use for class. Since most of our students would not be able to afford original copies of the books that professors assign, one of our staff members has to manually make a copy, page by page, of each textbook for each student in each class. This is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that uses up lots of paper and ink, resources that aren’t cheap. These copies are then hole-punched, bound, and sold to students at roughly a quarter to half the cost of the original book. Even with this this deep discount, these books are still relatively expensive. Over the course of a four-year curriculum, students spend an average of about 12,000 gourdes (about $270 USD) on books, which might not sound like a lot, but put that in context–the average annual income in Haiti is only about $700 per year. Imagine having to spend 1/10 of your annual budget for everything (and most of our students are married with children) on books and the dilemma these students are facing comes into clearer focus. Clearly, we need a more efficient, less expensive way of getting these books into students’ hands.
Until recently, however, there wasn’t an affordable solution to this problem. The only other option–digitizing the books and loading them onto computers–wasn’t really feasible. Book-scanning machines were too expensive for us–the province of Google and other elite companies able to shoulder the $25,000 cost–and even if they weren’t, laptops were too expensive for most of our students. In the past few years, however, a sea change in the high-tech world has changed our outlook. Since 2009, the rise of reliable D.I.Y. book scanners and software, such as The Archivist, has put digitizing our library within our financial reach (the latest model retails for $1,050). With your help, we could raise that money in a matter of hours. Once digitized, our books could be pre-loaded onto tablet computers such as an Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Surtab (a tablet device made right here in Haiti by Haitians since last year). Students could buy these devices from us at enrollment at a cost of $50-100, cutting their book fees by 60%. As an added benefit, these devices are also capable of storing multimedia such as audio and video (a highly useful feature for language classes such as Greek or Hebrew) and can provide students with a personal point of access to the Internet (which would be a first for many of them) since they are Wi-Fi capable.
While this project isn’t finalized yet (the Archivist machine I mentioned earlier is releasing a more up-to-date version in a few months, and we are waiting for that before we commit), it has the potential to revolutionize the way we do things at our school. In the meantime, we are looking for people willing to partner with us to turn this dream into a reality.