Journal # 6 - Girls Coding Course Conclusion

“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

In the beginning of this program we were inspired by Toptal's women's STEM scholarship to launch a coding program in hopes of sparking an interest amongst these girls. We didn't know what to expect. It was an exploratory program for us but we wanted to see where we could go with it. The group of girls that took the coding class ended up being very engaged by the content and were a very inquisitive group. Our classes would often digress into sidebar conversations about topics outside of coding such as how the internet works, the various functions of the computer, how to build a resume and more. This ongoing dialogue turned our girls coding program into something much more than initially planned. After four weeks of classes it became evident that the girls wanted to continue learning. We started to work with local Sierra Leone tech companies to begin planning a phase 2 to this program including internships.

Below is a recap of the last two weeks of the coding class and what the girls learned.


Lesson 6 built on our progress so far as we learned more about the computer, magnets, and the hard drive. We discussed how hard drives work by adding and removing tiny magnetic particles and created our most difficult program yet. This one asked the user for their name and then created a spiral with the name. Thanks to Francis our onsite teacher, he helped the girls with their troubleshooting and everyone had success creating their programs.

For our seventh and final lesson of this series, we started off with our usual 'pass the rock' game and then the girls worked programs that drew black and white circles. After all the girls had their programs running, we changed the background colors and number of circles that the programs drew. This was partly to get the girls ready for their next series of web classes, where variables that control page colors will be more important.

At the end of class we discussed resumes, and what we've accomplished so far. The girls now have resumes that they can present when an opportunity comes along.

Stay connected with us to learn more about the second phase of our girl's coding program.

Journal Entry #4 - Repetition leads to learning.

"Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment."

- Zig Ziglar

We're so proud of the girls and their continued effort to learn coding. It's not exactly like coding is for everyone. When we started off down this road we really didn't know what to expect. Would they enjoy the subject matter? Would they understand it? Where will this lead us and them? All questions that we're starting to get answers to as the weeks pass us by.

At the beginning of this class we built a learning to code basic 101 curriculum that we planned on following throughout the 7 weeks. However, what we've quickly learned is that when launching a program like this, in an environment where the children are not raised around technology from a young age, a lot of what we might find intuitive is not for them. The learning curve is higher than we planned but that's ok. It's important that they absorb  and retain the information. So we've slowed down our lessons and added in more detail around computers and the internet in general. As questions come up we take time to address them and make sure everyone understands before moving forward. What we've found is that repetition is the best way for them to learn. This is an extra curriculum course so we're not bound to a strict timeline and have plans to extend our course to make sure we can get all of the course content in.

Over 50% of the girls have expressed a real interest in the subject of coding and would like to continue learning.  This makes us very happy to hear! Not only that, we have people reaching out to us from other parts of the world that have heard about what we're doing and asking for us to help setup a similar coding course. The response to this program has been positive and better than expected!

So what's next........

As we continue to work on coding lessons we're also working with local Sierra Leone Tech companies to build out internship opportunities for these girls to work on real coding projects. Stay connected with us for more information to follow as we build out this phase of the program. We hope to expand our course curriculum to include web development and mobile app development since these are two skills that will give them the best opportunity to obtain paid work.

Week 4 Class Summary

This week during coding class, we talked briefly about the Internet and how computers are linked together by phone lines and satellites. The girls ran their 4th program today, after reviewing their troubleshooting skills from last week. After the programs were running, the girls practiced typing key phrases that we've learned in class.


Journal Entry 3 - Girls Coding Update

This week our budding band of programmers began to learn the most important skill in programming - troubleshooting. IMG_5244First we went over common programming errors, followed by some actual errors that students in our class encountered last week. We discussed how to troubleshoot each of these errors and how to look at the compiler message to see the approximate error where the problem occurred.

After that, teacher Francis led the girls in an exercise to create an Excel spreadsheet and practice typing.

Next week, armed with our new troubleshooting skills, we'll tackle more programs and discuss magnetism and how the hard drive works.

If you're following our coding program in rural Sierra Leone you may be thinking to yourself, what's next after this 7 week course? We are working on that! We hope to offer a new course to take the girls coding to the next level. We're also working with local Sierra Leone software development companies to organize a trip to Freetown so they can see real coding in action and gain some understanding around the practical application of this skill.

These programs are made possible through our donors and the many volunteers we have in place both in the United States and Freetown. If you are inspired by this and would like to volunteer your time to a similar project then get in touch by emailing We may just want to collaborate with you!

Alternatively you can make a contribution to a program similar to this one here.


Journal Entry #1 - Girls Learning to Code in Rural Sierra Leone

WEEK 1 - Intro to Coding

Yesterday was a BIG day for TVL and our partner's over at Global Education and Justice Network based out of Bumpe, a village in the southern province just 45 minutes away from Golu. Together we planned and executed the first ever all girls coding course. We were inspired by Toptal's STEM scholarship for women to bring this amazing educational opportunity to rural Sierra Leone. Our goal is to get the girls into a place of knowledge where they feel comfortable enough to apply for Toptal's scholarship program so they can continue practicing and learning coding.

This is game changing! The girls could eventually build technical solutions to real life problems and issues they experience in their communities. This could change the way they think about their own futures and what they want to do. At TVL, we pride ourselves in bringing opportunities like this to the underserved communities like Golu and Bumpe. Our work wouldn't be possible without dedicated volunteers and partners on the ground to make it all happen. A big thank you goes out to everyone involved!

Week 1 - Class Summary

Today we transformed some of the young ladies from Bumpe and Golu into beginning Programmers with the star of the new computer coding class. Most of today's class was about getting to know each other. TVL volunteer and coding expert, Janet showed some pictures of where she lives in Redwood City and then Jodie showed Auntie Janet some pictures of Bumpe that included the Bumpe Bridge, the river, the town, the medical buildings, some of the students with their names, and the Computer Lab.

After introductions, we talked about computers in general and discussed input and output devices. Then we went on to discuss input, output, and variables as parts of a computer program. We also went over the outline for our next six weeks of class.

Most importantly, the students got 'hands-on' time on the computers. They created a text file and then a one-line computer program. Finally, we wrote our first multiple-line program, which was a little difficult for some of the girls, but I think they are all getting the hang of it. Next week we will write a few multiple-line pictures that draw pictures.

Back from Sierra Leone!

TVL visits June Hartranft Primary School in Moyamba, Sierra Leone.


After a two weeks in Sierra Leone we are back in the Bay Area and finally adjusted to pacific standard time. We had a wonderfully successful trip and lots of work ahead of us. Stay connected with us on Facebook for periodic updates and check back on our website for a summary of all our activities, adventures and more!


Colleen & RoseAnn