Advisory Board Member
Ena Haines is no stranger to achievement. After being urged by a professor of chemistry to enter the field of information storage and retrieval, Haines would go on to earn a BA from Smith College in Biochemistry (summa cum laude) and a Master’s in Library Science. Her career spans over 40+ years of experience in Information Technology. She currently works as the Director of Information Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University.
She laughs when asked about the change in process between then and now. “We were writing everything from scratch in those days,” she said. “It was fun, like getting paid to solve crossword puzzles.”
Her interest in Tanzanian culture, however, began on a safari in 2009. Captivated by the country, she and her husband took a tour to Banjika school. “The people are lovely, very willing to work hard in challenging circumstances, yet remain so optimistic and friendly,” she said. She found herself impressed by the students and teachers they came across, even more so when she noticed their computer lab. “I asked if there was any way to make a contribution,” Haines recounted. “That’s how I was put in touch with Janice and Powering Potential.”
What began as a single donation evolved into monthly meetings with Powering Potential’s Founding Executive Director. In January of 2012, Haines was formally asked to join the Board. Coordinating the technology effort has been a top priority since she acquired the position. When asked about her methodology, Haines replied, “Organizing and managing technology is what I’ve always done. Working in education, particularly at Teachers College, I learned a lot about teaching with technology, which is not a science. It is an art.”
Her recent trip to Tanzania added to a growing educational canvas. “It was a very busy two weeks,” she recalled. “We visited each of the six schools and met with the headmasters and teachers. We learned about the status of their projects. It was also interesting meeting people like Moses Mabula, the District Executive Director in Karatu and the department heads.”
One moment stands out for Haines that captures the essence of the Powering Potential experience. It occurred during a visit to one school where the computers sat unused because the school could no longer afford to pay the technology teacher. Just when the outlook for the success of the installation appeared bleak, the assistant headmaster said he would be interested in teaching computers if he had additional training. “Out of this discouraging situation, someone stepped forward eager and energetic to work with us. It didn’t require extra resources on the part of the school. The clouds parted, the sun shone and there was a solution.” With a laugh, she added, “This is typical of trying to do our projects in Tanzania.”
Haines has plans to retire from her position at Columbia this spring, which will allow her to dedicate more time to Tanzania and the students. “I am very encouraged because what we learned on the trip was that while there is a significant teacher shortage in Tanzania, there are lots of new teachers who have completed their education programs using computers. Things are changing rapidly.”
With her experienced hands helping the Powering Potential team, things are certain to continue changing for the better.