Where are they now? – Pascale

The ATMA SEVA blog is adding a new category called ‘Where are they now?’. Each entry will feature a former volunteer or ATMA SEVA traveler to highlight where the person is and the work they are doing, things they have taken away from their travels, any past reflections, and a platform for them to share.

In addition to the work ATMA SEVA does (cultural and educational tours, volunteer placements, & community work) we are striving to create a community for people to join, to get and stay involved no matter where they are in the world.  (check out our ‘Join our Community‘ page)  We hope this section is a source of motivation to get out and travel, volunteer, help people, and to learn from others experiences.

Enjoy, and if anyone has any suggestions or comments please leave a reply below!

The first entry is about Pascale, who volunteered with the Wat Doi Saket project from October 2010 – February 2011.  Pascale is from France and before coming on this trip she was working as a webmaster to create, develop, and maintain various websites.  She had a feeling that she wanted to do more and to possibly get involved with the non-profit sector, but wanted an overseas experience first.

After her time with the WDSP, she returned to France with a new outlook and goals in mind.  Pascale recently started her own NGO that works in Senegal.  Read below to learn about her new organization, her time with ATMA SEVA, and more!

Pascale Pollak and friends at Podor.

1) Tell us about your new NGO in Senegal? 
My NGO is called “e-nexus” and its aim is to create and organize solidarity programs to help bridge the digital divide.  A full partnership between schools, organizations, and local communities to provide access to computers and to learn how to use them and learn other IT skills.

2) How did you get involved with this project?
One day, a friend of mine said, “hey Pascale, you just came from four months of volunteering in Thailand and you like technology and are a professional in the IT sector.  You want to help, you are on the move and strong, you should do something for the digital divide, e-education… There are so many things you can do!”  This is when my project began.

African girls with traditional braided hair.

3) What inspired you to start e-nexus?
Having the ability and knowledge for how to use a computer is necessary in our society for education, information, and work.  For many kids and people in the world it’s impossible because of the digital divide and poverty.  E-nexus is one way to help provide IT education and training.

4) Why is your project beneficial?  Who and how does it help?
– 80% of IT users represent 20% of the worlds population.
– In France each year, 2.5 million computers are thrown away by companies.  50% of these computers are in working order.

Our projects are for everybody: from kids to teenagers, students, and adults.  I’m very passionate about the education of women as well.

– Have access to the IT resources that will help them to build their future.  IT education is a way to help improve literacy as well.
– To bring the materials isn’t enough. (not e-waste! Africa isn’t the dustbin of developed countries!)  Supplements are necessary to help learn and use computers and programs in an efficient way.  Programs are developed with local people (NGO’s, schools, town council, etc) to ensure that the resources or being used in the most productive fashion.
– At the end of the courses, students will be tested to obtain a certificate similar to an ECDL. (European Computer Driving License)
– We also keep watch on the second life of the computers in Africa until their last destination: recycling programs.

Ibrahima teaching the first steps of how to use a computer. (Podor)

5) How can people check out your project and get involved? 
All in French language at the moment…
Website: www.e-nexus.net
Facebook page (don’t forget to ‘like’!):  www.facebook.com/ONGe.nexus
Soon, online donations will be possible through: http://www.mailforgood.com

6) What did you learn from ATMA SEVA, and your time with the Wat Doi Saket project?
So many things!  I decided to try a four month experience to learn about volunteering, Buddhism, Thai culture, and how and who I am really in all-purposes.  How can I understand other cultures, education, and the way of life in real situations (the situation of Thai people) and not like a “farang” in a resort or Sunday market.  This was possible to observe and be immersed in the culture as the Wat Doi Saket project focuses on exposing volunteers to authentic Thai culture and showing them a wide variety of locations.  Four months confirmed what I wanted to be and do from now on.

7) What was your most memorable moment volunteering in Thailand?
Teaching was very funny and sometimes puzzling as the planning doesn’t have the same weight as in the West, but I still very much enjoyed being in the classroom.  I’m also very interested in Buddhism and I learned a lot with the monks who became my real friends. (thanks to social networks we can continue to be friends 🙂 )

Pascale at Doi Inthanon with the monks

The special “Christmas party” at the temple with a gift exchange made me so happy and I felt lucky.  I was able to take part in a very special moment at the temple, which most people do not get to experience.  I was honored to be invited.

I spent new years eve 2010 to 2011 listening to the monks chanting near the pagoda.  It was a very spiritual moment for me.  I recorded them with my smartphone and enjoy them frequently still.

I can’t forget all the travels with the monks and novices to different parts of Thailand. Riding in the back of a pick up truck with fresh air blowing in my face and also riding the motorbike on small roads in the rice fields was a new and fun experience for me.

8) What would you say to people thinking about volunteering or traveling abroad to help?

Bank of Senegal river at Podor

Don’t hesitate: GO ON!!  Learn, look, smell, taste, smile, sing, pray, be curious and share.

If anyone has any questions for Pascale about her new organization you can reach her at: pascale@e-nexus.net.  Subscribe to this blog and stay tuned for the next edition of ‘Where are they now?’



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