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Sondja Telemaque

NetHope Academy Haiti – Graduate of the Internship program 2010/2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

August 2011. Sondja Telemaque graduated from the NetHope Academy Internship Program in Haiti in 2011 and is now working as the ITS department administrator for the World Health Organization. She says, in Haiti this is considered a “very unconventional path for women”. Sodja describes her experience in Port-au-Prince during the earthquake in 2010 and her career in IT in her own words:

Sondja (right) with NetHope Global Program Director Frank Schott

Sondja (right) with NetHope Program Director Frank Schott

“I have always had a passion for Science. I began developing my computer science skills in middle school and enjoyed the subject so much that I went on to study Computer Science at l’Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haïti (ESIH). It was the endless possibilities and the innovative spirit found in science that made me want to pursue a career in IT.

After graduation, I decided to become a professor of multimedia technologies at ESIH. I also chose to be involved in the school’s virtual reality lab as its assistant director and a developer of interactive 3D applications. Many in Haiti think that this is an unconventional path for a woman, but I have been fortunate to receive a lot of encouragement along the way from my family and my teachers.

The Earthquake
On January 12, 2010, I was in the virtual reality lab helping two students with their final 3D project when the earthquake hit. I ran to the corner of the room to protect my head from falling devices. Once the major vibrations passed, I tried to disconnect the lab’s electronic equipment and help students run out with their bags. The building continuted to shake and people were trapped everywhere, screaming for help. I did not know what to do, but I was determined to help them somehow.

I also worried about my parents and my two sisters. My mother, who is a specialist and pediatric doctor and works at the Ministry of Public Health, was trapped in the main Health Ministry building downtown. My father is a specialist surgeron in Laroscopy, and he was driving in his car at the time of the earthquake.

The scariest part was that there was no communication; all phones were inactive. I walked through the streets, from ESIH to Petion-Ville, looking for my parents. I randomly met one of my schoolmate’s in a crowd, and her cellphone was working! I was able to reach my father, but my mother was unreachable until the next morning. Thankfully, my entire family survived the disaster.

The NetHope Academy
While the ESHI was being rebuilt, I was moved to ESIH’s temporary location in Delmas to lead students in their final project to obtain their Master 1 degree in computer science. Mr. Patrick Attié, the vice-president of ESIH, held a discussion for students interested in learning more about Microsoft tools. I attended, and that is where I met the NetHope team and learned about the NetHope Academy. I believe it was the perfect opportunity to redirect my focus back to my professional career, and not on the devastation caused by the earthquake.

I have learned so much with the NetHope Academy, especially about mounting satellite dishes, mastering how to troubleshoot Windows XP issues and using GIS mapping technology. This experience has allowed me to grow as a person and as an IT professional. I am grateful to all the specialists that came to teach us through these difficult times, especially Marc Michault who has ‘lived the storm’ with us at the ESIH location.

Sondja (right) and her classmates are role models for other young women in Haiti.

The NetHope Academy program is broken into two parts: classroom learning and an on-site internship with a humanitarian group’s field office. For my internship, I was placed with the World Health Organization, a big UN organization that assists the Health Ministry. My experience was particularly hard because I had to address all issues submitted by international and national staff during the cholera epidemic by myself; I had never worked as part of a humanitarian organization before. But my hard work paid off; I was promoted to the ITS department administrator and now I am learning even more.

I hope my story inspires other young women that they too can have a successful career in IT. I would like to thank NetHope and its supporters for this opportunity.“