Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Around the world in 60 minutes

By Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Pax Populi on 2 February 2016

When you engage with your student everyday through Facebook, the Pax Populi Academy website, Whatsapp and emails, you sometimes forget that you are a part of a larger community of peace-builders across the world. Then suddenly there is an email and you reply to it. In less than a week, you’ve got a chain of 55 emails in your inbox.
One morning, Pax Populi’s founder, Bob (we call Robert McNulty by this name) opened his inbox after a break of a couple of days. He was surprised and overwhelmed. In order to bring all the tutors and coordinators together to ideate and discuss their individual problems and save us from flooded inboxes, Bob asked us to join the Pax Populi group on Slack, a Whatsapp-like messaging software for teams who mean serious business. And boy, were we serious!
The 10 channels we set up were buzzing with chats, opinions, ideas and questions. Frank Fucile, our go-to guy for all kinds of technical issues patiently responded to our queries about e-libraries, integration with video-conferencing. Bhakti Gala, who holds a PhD in Library Science, started working with Frank to get more resources into the Pax Populi Academy library.
We talked about events, social media, blogs, tutorials, courses and languages. Didem Ekici, the International Coordinator of Pax Populi, then came up with the idea of conducting a meeting. It took us about a week to agree upon the time and date, no mean task when you’re looking at people from USA, Canada, Afghanistan, India and South Korea. Bob decided to try out GoToMeeting. That’s the thing about Pax Populi – we try new stuff every time.
On 30 January at 8.30 am India time, I logged in through my phone to join the meeting. Poor internet connectivity during peak internet hours in India meant that the phone was the only way I could join the network. Some of my unlucky teammates from India and Afghanistan were forced to miss the meeting because of technical issues. However, it was nice to hear the voices of people who made it to the meeting and see some of them (not all our webcams were working).
We introduced ourselves. Bob talked about Pax Populi, Frank about his experience in designing e-learning systems, Didem about her work with Pax Populi over the last couple of years, Jason Round about teaching English to children in the Czech Republic and South Korea and his interaction with the oldest student at Pax Populi (a 50-year-old man from Kandahar) and Anand Balar about his experience of teaching Aslam Watanyar from Kandahar and coordinating Pax Populi’s tutors at Purdue University.
Bhakti shared her experience in developing library resources and I talked about mine in teaching and writing in India and Australia. The proud moment for me was when my student, Muhammad Qasem Jami from Herat introduced himself in flawless English. 
After the hour-long meeting, I asked Jami, “How many English accents did you recognise?” “A variety of British, American, Indian and Afghan-American. It is so good to listen to different accents and understand them all. It is lovely for me to be part of such a great community,” he said. “And you represented your country at an international meeting!” “Wow! I am tempted to tell the whole of Afghanistan about it.” And sure he did, with a Facebook update!

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