Source: Amjad Al-Jirawy/ Matar Project (Social Innovation Incubator Participating Group)
Translated by: Hashem Al-Qudah/ Communication Officer, Tech Tribes.
“My name is Noor, and Matar project has saved my academic life”. This was the first reply our team received when we posed the question “what did you gain from volunteering with Matar Project?” in one of the Matar Project meetings to prepare for the launch of our upcoming mobile application.
Matar Project is a project run by a group of volunteers who has structured an operational model that ended up somewhat chaotic. Matar Project helps provide audio recordings of academic books to visually disabled university students. Volunteers are assigned certain books and they use their free time to record or transcribe the text so electronic reading programs could read it. A coordinator used to collect and archive recordings or documents and send them by email or voice notes using messaging apps to students who initially requested them.
As part of our participation in the Social Innovation Incubator run be Tech Tribes and supported by The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), we have innovated the working system to utilize technology in a way that will boost our impact by creating a mobile application with two interfaces. The first interface is dedicated to helping registered volunteers to either audio-record or type the text from selected image and text formats supported by the app. All recordings or text related to each book will auto-save on a central database in real time and will then be ready to be shared with a user in need.
The second interface of the application will be dedicated to providing the visually disabled with the option of listening to recorded audio books and text recorded by the community of volunteers. The combination of these two interfaces will result in a comprehensive and always-available electronic library of audio textbooks available to all beneficiaries.
In the many capacity development meetings and workshops we received from Tech Tribes and the Tech Mentors, we have heard a lot of feedback like Noor’s. In probing her statement further, she exclaimed: If you saw me before starting to volunteer with Matar Project, you would have been looking at a university drop-out; I hated studying, I did not want to read books, and I did not see purpose in reading or studying rigid boring textbooks”.
Springing from her will to spend her time helping other students, and partly straying away from her own studies, Noor started recording textbooks for the blind a month prior to the training session she attended. While getting introduced to the idea of the Application intended, Noor was encouraged to record more textbooks and be more active in reading and transcribing. She shared:
“When I knew about the idea of the new Application and how it will make it easier to record, transcribe, save, and share files, I got more active, and without me knowing, I got hooked at reading these textbooks. I reached a point where I will be studying and recording the same textbook; it saved by academic life. I thought that I will be helping the blind, but my engagement in the efforts of Matar Project helped ME and gave me purpose”.
As a team, we always hear of how our project helps save the academic lives of the visually impaired whether in Jordan or abroad. It is rare that a volunteer feels that their academic success was enhanced by the use of our model. This has shed light on a whole new aspect of our project that we were not very aware of. We highly appreciate how The Social Innovation Incubator helped our team take a broader look at our efforts and coached us through designing a technology that boosts our impact by engaging more volunteers and beneficiaries.