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The Result:

Transformational Change

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Shellbooks result in the following benefits for local communities:

Access to Life-Crucial Information.
Using local languages provides enhanced access to education and other information crucial for development. All members of the community have access -- especially women and children, who are often the least likely to know or act on information in an "outside" language they don't understand well, if at all.

Integrated Development.
Women working on the computers in Guatemala Through participation in terms of their own language and cultural perspective, communities are able to validate new information and incorporate it into their daily lives. Each community's entire resource of cultural knowledge becomes available to explain and integrate new concepts in terms of the “known” when communication is participatory and takes place in the local language.

Community-Directed Development.
Community members themselves assess and adapt new information in light of their heritage and traditions. This is both a fundamental human right and the wisest course for sound and sustainable human development.

Social Stability.
Education and development that is dominated by cultural and linguistic outsiders often has unintended, socially disruptive consequences in indigenous communities. The authority of local leaders and self-determination of all community members may be strengthened by reintegrating these activities into the community through use of the local language.

Increased Capacity for Development of All Types.
A community's capacity to utilize development assistance increases exponentially when it is empowered to participate in the processes of its own development -- in the language it uses every day.

Grassroots Change

Life Access Technology Trust founder Mike Trainum developed the first Shellbooks while working among the Qoqwaiyeqwa people of Papua New Guinea. Here he shares two stories that demonstrate the life-changing and lasting effects that Shellbooks can have at the grassroots level.

Lives Saved With a Localized Analogy

Mother with Child, PNG Once, many very young children were dying from diarrhea in Hekwange Village. A nurse came from Menyamya to explain to mothers that they must use rehydration fluid (water with sugar and salt added) when their children had this type of sickness. Her exhortation was in Pidgin. After she left, we overheard some women laughing and saying how stupid she was. Everyone “knew ” that you withheld fluids from someone with diarrhea - after all, “like begets like!”

We created a Shellbook that used a cultural analogy that compared a severe diarrhea victim's limp skin with the leaves of a common plant the Qoqwaiyeqwa people would irrigate when it grew limp from drought. We don't know how many children were saved once the concept was discussed and written in their own language, but we do know that many mothers began to use rehydration fluid to treat diarrhea. That Shellbook has since been adapted into several hundred Papua New Guinean languages.

Integrating Tradition With Education

Villagers Reading My “village papa,” Tauye, was a brilliant man. He spoke several languages and was a walking encyclopedia of Qoqwaiyeqwase history and wisdom - but he couldn't read or write a word. Traditionally, his authority was unchallenged. With the advent of village schools where topics were taught in a foreign language, all of that changed. Young men who attended for only a short time and then dropped out suddenly possessed “wisdom” unknown to Tauye.

In 1993, the PNG Department of Education adopted the Shellbook method for adapting curriculum into local languages. The resulting Shellbooks have been used in the first three grades of village elementary schools. Traditional leaders like Tauye were asked to oversee the adaptation of the curriculum, because they are the experts in their languages and cultures. This has had a tremendous impact on integrating the old and the new in education. By mid 2003, the curriculum had been adapted into 435 Papua New Guinean languages.