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.


Coding Class Journal Entry #2 - The Future of Sierra Leone

"Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family."

- Kofi Annan

Some people have challenged TVL and asked us why we are running a coding course in such a rural part of the world when there are other forms of development that may be more in immediate demand, such as more medical supplies or providing skilled medical personnel. Non of these needs are mutually exclusive of one another and all are very important. I wanted to provide some background on why TVL is running this program and why we believe it is important work.

There is certainly no shortage of challenges in Sierra Leone and we could try to tackle other problem areas but TVL's foundation is in education and entrepreneurship. The Village Link started years ago because a close friend from the village of Golu asked for help. He wanted the children in his village to have access to better education. These children are the future of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone won't move forward if all we do is offer handouts and bandaid solutions. As an outside nonprofit we strive to provide the communities we work in with the necessary tools and opportunities to build up their own economy and solve their own community challenges. Our role is to facilitate educational opportunities so they can gain different experiences and exposure to new subject matter, train locals to run and operate the community resource centers, help set up revenue channels so the center can eventually become self sustaining, community owned and operated. With every program we run we always make an effort to seek local experts, partners and businesses to support the local economy. The programs we run end up being driven majority by a group of locals with TVL assisting from a distance.

This coding course provides the girls the chance to learn a highly desirable, global skill set that could set them a part from others. We don't expect them all to love coding or choose this as a career path. But, how will they know if they want to do this or not without given the opportunity to explore something new? We live in a digital age where it has become a necessity to have a basic understanding of digital literacy. These girls have already taken part in a variety of digital literacy courses and now they are moving on to learn the language of coding. We don't know where this course will lead them in their lives but it's worth giving them the opportunity and exposure so they can see where it might take them.

Week 2 – Class Summary

On 4/18, the girls from Bumpe and Golu started their second adventure into the world of coding with lesson 2.

After discussing the programs we worked on last week and reviewing parts of the computer, the girls each wrote a new program that draws a square spiral. This program included the 'import' command and a 'loop'. These are programming concepts that are common in every programming language.

We also discussed how to type like a professional and how to reach each key easily.

Next week we will work on how to find errors and troubleshoot your program.

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.

Girls Learning to Code

"Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope.

Hope breeds peace."

- Confucious


Confucious' quote is appropriate for today's blog post. TVL strives to provide technology powered education with the end goal of improving economic development in the rural villages of Sierra Leone. We hope the educational opportunities we bring to Sierra Leone will breed confidence and hope in the people to build up their own country with creative solutions and innovations so they do not have to always rely on outside support.

In late 2015 Toptal, a network of the best freelance software engineers and designers in the world, brought to our attention two things:

  1. Women make up around just 16% of the engineering workforce in the technology industry. The gap is even larger when you look at Open Source, with women making up just 6% of users on GitHub.
  2. They have a scholarship program geared towards encouraging women and girls all over the world to learn how to code.

After learning this we felt compelled to bring this opportunity to Sierra Leone. So we began to put the gears in motion for a "Learn to Code" class for girls ages 13 - 18 with the option to apply for the Toptal scholarship at the end of the course. We've partnered with a local Silicon Valley coding guru, Janet Major, to help create a 7 week long course curriculum for the girls of Bumpe and Golu. Janet has been working in the computer industry for more than 30 years. She writes books about how to use hardware and software. The "Girls Who Code" movement has inspired her to get involved and help teach the younger generations about computer science. After months of planning we are ready to launch our first class on April 11th.

Our 7 week course will be taught in conjunction by Janet and our local partner, a Sierra Leonean nonprofit, Global Education and Justice Network. The course will use the book Teach Your Kids To Code as the text book and will be highly interactive with fun games that teach them how to code using Python.

Stay connected with us on Facebook to learn about updates as our program roles out.

We've been busy in 2016

RoseAnn and Colleen giving some one on one assistance.

We kicked off the new year in Sierra Leone and we were incredibly busy!

We went on this trip with the intention of expanding the digital library in Golu and starting the process to bring free internet into to Golu and the surrounding villages to leverage for educational purposes. What we ended up accomplishing in our 10 days, was much more than planned. Check it out!


We are now working with the Golu school headmaster and our partners in digital literacy to incorporate computer science as part of the schools curriculum this semester. Stayed tuned to learn more about this program.

If you would like to make a contribution to our on-going programs you can do so here: <<DONATE>>