By: Zandria Johnson

Going to Cotonou, Benin was nothing short of amazing. Our vision is to tighten the gap in technology literacy, and we did that by giving back to the community and inspiring others. We not only made an impact on the people and villages of Benin, but we gained something of our own. Benin has a special place in my heart. Here is how the trip impacted a few others.

David Gao on the overall experience:

“When I volunteered for CodeToHope, I couldn’t imagine the impact it would have on my life. Being in Benin—being physically there to see the people the organization is helping—was humbling. It’s one thing to volunteer your time to help others and know you’ve done a good deed. It’s another thing entirely to speak to them in person, laugh with them and let them bring you into their lives. I’ll never forget the children we met, who wore smiles from ear-to-ear when we arrived at their village to install solar panels and distribute personal computers. Or the passionate eyes of the students we taught, who were eager to learn everything we had to offer. Although I’m still not sure I’ve fully absorbed my time in Benin, I know I’ll cherish every memory of it. “

Jerome Johnson Jr. on providing electricity to a village and powering laptops through solar panels:

“Installing the solar panels was truly an eye-opening activity. You hear that you will be doing this and think, “oh that is pretty cool.” Then, you arrive at the village, see the conditions and realize how much of a difference this will make for the kids and faculty. Literally there is nothing around this school: dirt roads, no electricity or technology, and many kids don’t even have shoes. You realize just how much of a difference it will make for them. The students and faculty were extremely elated as we were greeted by song and applause. It was truly an amazing experience to be a part of and one I will never forget.”

Shatisha Stephens on delivering computers to villages and goods to orphanages:

“I was able to have hands-on experience and a tangible impact going into the villages, witnessing the culture, and connecting with those who live there. We showed them that we were committed to sharing resources and tools to help improve their quality of life.  When we donated the computers to the schools, it brought such joy to know that they were going to be using technology in their everyday lives. Lastly, being able to buy food and other goods for the orphanage was the best feeling because we supported those in need and provided the necessities for children that are less fortunate. It was truly the most humbling yet rewarding experience I have had in life thus far.”

Gregory Gould on empowering college students at ISM Adonaï University:

“One of the courses taught involved entrepreneurship and design thinking where the students performed a self-observation with their own community challenges. They learned specific tools to build a problem statement, identify an audience, and build a concept to test. The winning team received a monetary award, totaling approximately $350 USD, to put towards achieving their business objective. Each pitch was unique and innovative, and the raw emotion and delivery of the pitches resonated with both the instructors and fellow students. The winning team will continue their passion towards solving sanitation and waste management in their own homeland, continuing the pattern of giving back and building up their own community.”