Jennifer Abagyeh Comes to Iowa City for Training

From September 15 until September 30 this year, the University of Iowa's WiderNet Project hosted Ms. Jennifer Abagyeh, a WiderNet Field Associate and newly appointed Regional Representative for the Global Disability Rights Library in Nigeria. Abagyeh was at the University of Iowa for extensive training in global disability rights and in the operation of the new Global Disability Rights digital library (GDRL).  This was her first visit to the United States.

Jennifer reveled in coming to the United States and Iowa. “Iowa is cool,” Abagyeh said. However, she did find one thing rather peculiar. “There is too much cheese." Upon visiting the Bread Garden Market in downtown Iowa City, Abagyeh was astounded by the selection of cheeses offered. “There were over 100 kinds of cheese!” Abagyeh said. 

Jennifer enjoys her Field Associate position because of the opportunity for travel. “I like going to new places, doing new things, and new technology,” Abagyeh said. “It’s an opportunity to bring something new to people. I’ve always been in the field of IT, but this Project is special in moving forward and bridging the digital divide,” Abagyeh said.

Through her work as a Field Associate, Jennifer comes across a myriad of different circumstances on the job. “There are some national constants, but every place has a different issue,” Abagyeh said. “Some places, it’s technical know-how, others, it is power.” In about 40 to 50 percent of the areas she covers, however, access to electricity is not an issue.

At one particular eGranary site, Jennifer ran into another kind of problem. “I had to do a fresh install,” Abagyeh said, “They complained it wasn’t working.” What had happened was that a person from the area had systematically deleted each page on the drive. Jennifer was impressed by the time and effort that person took to delete all the files. “750 gigabytes, gone,” Abagyeh laughed, “It was sabotage!”

With Jennifer’s new appointment as GDRL Regional Representative, she has had the opportunity to come to Iowa for training to better help the people she serves in her home country of Nigeria. “I feel as if I came and got educated in the making of the library, so now I have a better understanding of how it works.” Jennifer feels as if coming to Iowa City for training helped her more than had she stayed in Nigeria and contacted WiderNet when she had questions. “I’ve been able to come up with tools to make my work better in the field,” Abagyeh said. “I’m able to point to resources and give first hand information.” Jennifer is also excited about the opportunity she now has working as a Regional Representative for the Global Disability Rights Library and in the advancement of disability rights in Nigeria. “I have members of my family actively involved in disability rights and other aspects of it,” Abagyeh said. "My cousin started me with disability rights, so the GDRL came at just the right time," Abagyeh said.

WiderNet Project staff enjoyed having Jennifer here for her two-week training period. As much as she learned while she was here, we also learned from her as she shared success stories (what works well, what people are most interested in having) as well as some of the problems and concerns she has had to face working in the field. 

"Having Jennifer in our office was a pleasure," GDRL Field Coordinator Tomeka Peterson said. "It was a great way to directly share ideas and I think everyone benefited from her visit."