With all the talk about bit rates and sampling frequencies, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that sound is first and foremost a means of communication. Dr. Fred Mednick, founder of Teachers Without Borders, knows that, and he's been making use of basic recording technology to improve the lives of villagers in Third World countries.
TWB is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to bring education and improve living conditions in remote parts of the world. Sound, Mednick found, can bridge the gap between illiterate villagers and government assistance agencies.
“We call it ‘Village Voices,’” Mednick explained. “We have set up tele-centers so that kids can go out to the villages and collect information about what they want and need — how do I cure diarrhea, this guy is ripping us off for feritlizer, what's a good price for pineapples, or what do we need to do during these next two weeks to prepare for monsoon season? The kids record their voices, return to the tele-centers, look up information on a Website and report back. Sound is the bridge, and the tele-centers extend the reach.”
Mednick has set up programs in India and, with the assistance of TWB board member Jane Goodall, in Costa Rica. This month, he was expecting to be in Nigeria, where the government had signed up 140,000 teachers for training and cultural exchange.
Future plans include a weekly Webcast to update teacher training and certification, a benefit album and a companion project with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Phil Borges to focus attention on the problems of poverty and illiteracy.
For more information, or to donate equipment or services, visit www.teacherswithoutborders.org.
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