Background | Goals | Donations | Photos | Phase 1: Esher Primary School | Phase 2: New School Selection and Planning

Phase 1: Esher Primary School Installation complete!

During the preparation and installation phases of Esher Primary, we learned alot.  We learned many things about the process and requirements that will make Phase 2, and subsequent phases much smoother and less expensive. The kids were happy, the school Principle and Staff were happy, and it was a very rewarding project.  We have included some photos and a description of the timeline of the preparation and installation below - enjoy.  Please click on the pictures that are below, and you will see larger versions than the thumbnail views.

Imaging of last laptop.
Imaging of last desktop.
Packing up the desktop CPUs.
Boxed up and sealed.
At Air Canada Cargo - ready to go!


We got caught up in contacting the school to find out about Duty-Free status for a couple of weeks in May.  Completely forgetting that we actually had to load and prepare the equipment.  As of May 23rd, it was becoming obvious that we had to get going, or the project wasn't going to get done on time.

We purchased some educational software, and began to setup the master software load on 1 laptop.  It was determined that we were going to do a master software image, and then once that was finalized, re-image all the other machines. During the process, we installed lots of elementary school phonics and reading software.  An encyclopedia was also installed, along with some Spanish language software, Math software, and upper middle-school grammatical and reading software.

The loading of all the machines took approximately 40-50 hours of work.  Much of this work will not have to be repeated, as we have selected all the software, and sorted out the imaging process.

Following the software work, all of the gear was boxed up (with lots of bubble wrap, 'fragile' stickers, and tape) on May 26th.  We were ready to go.

Air Canada Cargo.  This was definitely a learning process.  Showing up at Air Canada Cargo on the 27th with a car full of boxes, we started the shipping process. Basically, showing up with 6 boxes and saying "Hi, I've got 6 boxes that I'd like to get to Jamaica" was not the best idea.  The shipping clerk ran me through the cargo checkin process, and everything got weighed and received.

Although we had done some investigation into the process by calling Air Canada Cargo beforehand, they hadn't told us that we had to pre-book the flight.  When returning from the cargo weigh-in, the shipping clerk asked if this was "pre-booked".  It wasn't.  This was a problem.

We were sent upstairs to the booking department, where it was quite obvious no customers usually go.  The cargo booking agents informed me that everything was booked up for 2 weeks.  We already had airline tickets booked and this was going to be a serious problem.  The people on the phone hadn't mentioned anything about this, and had only said that it's typically 3 or 4 days to get cargo there.

I mentioned to the booking people that we already had airline tickets scheduled, and gave them a brief overview of the project, and apologized for how stupid we were.  As soon as they heard what we were trying to do, lots of 'override' buttons started getting pushed.  In about 20 minutes, they not only got us on impossible over-booked flights by overriding stuff, but they also gave us a broker rate on the shipment, which means we saved about 400 dollars on shipping.  We couldn't have got the gear there without their help.  They were awesome.

After booking, we go downstairs again to pay for the shipment, and the computers are down for 45 minutes.  They finally came back up, we paid, and the shipment was ready to go.  The entire shipment got to Montego Bay on Saturday May 31st.  This is a full 3 days faster than a FedEx shipment that we sent to Montego Bay about 6 weeks ago.  I can't say enough good things about Air Canada Cargo.

Montego Bay - Equipment pickup.

Ms. Phillips running around getting documents cleared.
Original Truck sent for Equipment (stuck).
From completely dry to flood in 10 minutes.
Computers safe and dry.
Shipment finally at the school.


We flew from Calgary to Toronto on the Red-Eye, and then from Toronto to Montego Bay on June 4th.  Very long flight, and we decided because of that that no further installations will be scheduled on off-peak airline times to Jamaica again.  After about May 17th, all flights have to go through Toronto until the fall.  We're going to schedule so that it's a direct flight for our installation teams in the future.  This was decided while sleeping on the floor at Pearson International at 6am. 

We arrived in Montego Bay about 1:30pm local time.  Ms. Phillips from Esher Primary was co-ordinating the equipment pickup at the cargo depot.  We were under a compressed timeline, and were under the impression that the cargo had already cleared.  This was not the case.  Neville (our driver and indispensable friend in Jamaica) was on the phone with Ms. Phillips, and found that she was at the cargo dock at the same time we were at the airport.

Heading over to the cargo depot, it began to rain a few minutes after we arrived.  Lots of rain.  Ms. Phillips ran around to the various offices, attempting to get the correct forms signed for the release of the equipment.  Apparently we created a problem by addressing the shipment to her attention as well as the school address.  After about 1 hour waiting in the rain, the equipment was released.

The school had arranged for an open-bed truck to pickup the equipment.  Because it started raining so hard, it was decided that the open-bed truck concept wasn't going to work.  Fortunately we were there with Neville's enclosed bus, and we took all the equipment onboard.

One funny thing happened when we were waiting for the equipment.  During the downpour, there was lightning directly overhead of us.  There was a particularly bright flash, and then an immediate thunderclap, which scared me, and I jumped back on the dock after being startled.  One of the dockhands started laughing at me and said "That's your God talking to you - you need to stand up to that!". 1 stop and about 2 hours later, we delivered the equipment to the school.

   WMV Video - Delivery of Computers to School

Installation Day

Installation team ready to go.
Neville with tools used to repatch electricity.
School staff reviewing software.
Ms. Phillips reviewing the installation.
Ms. Phillips thanks us for the project (done).


We got started at about 9am on June 5th, the day after arriving.  We arrived and began to unpack all of the computers, taking them upstairs to the library/lab where they were eventually installed.  We had been under the impression that we were going to be distributing the computers in a selection of classrooms.  The School wanted us to use the old computer lab instead, which made more sense.  It was more of a centralized location, and it was a secure area, as opposed to the classrooms.

We continued to unpack and start to setup the equipment.  There was a desk surface, and there were some holes in it to run cables for the LCD monitors, but they were not big enough.  The school had a handyman come in with a reciprocating saw, and cut the holes bigger at the back of the desk surface.  Unfortunately, he also cut through the electrical wiring at the back of the desk, and we lost power!

Neville grabbed a kitchen knife, a flathead screwdriver, and some masking tape, and patched the wires back together in the dark.  There was no electrician around, but the school said that they were going to call one in to properly deal with the wiring the next day.  I hope they did.  After about an hour and a half of downtime due to the hole cutting and electrical problems, we got started on the setup.

The rest of the actual installation of the equipment was pretty straightforward.  Most of the software work had been done ahead of time in Calgary before it was shipped, so the work was about 90% physical.  All 4 desktop machines for some reason needed to be re-activated for Windows XP, so we spent about 1 hour on the phone with Microsoft getting re-activation codes for the 4 of them.

There wasn't enough space in the computer lab for all 16 machines.  We installed 10 machines, 6 laptops and 4 desktops.  2 of the lesser-capable laptops were only loaded with basic typing instructional software and will be kept in the floater pool.  4 of the remaining laptops were designated for floater machines for the teachers, and the school will be setting up a sign-out/sign-in system for them to be assigned.

The installation was finished about 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon.  After a short (but hot and exhausting) day, we headed back to the hotel for a bit of rest before the next days site-surveying of additional school sites.

6 laptops on right side of room.
Alex sweating it out in the 'hot' lab.
A couple of the desktops setup.
Cutting holes in the desk (and wires!)
Local tech - he was very happy.

   WMV Video - Ms. Phillips and Bissett reviewing software

   WMV Video - Final Video of Installation in Lab room


 The School and the kids......

Happy kids in a classroom.
Some boys hamming it up for the camera.
Couple of girls on the main walkway.
Ms. Bissett (Vice Principal).
Boy hanging out near the library and stairs.


What can I say?  The kids were happy and amazing.  Every time you would start taking either still photos or video, they would go crazy.  They all wanted to be on camera. The school, and Ms. Phillips was very happy with the project - it was a complete success!

No matter how many school facilities we end up helping in Jamaica, Esher Primary School will be in our hearts.  It was the first one that we've done, and it was done for a combination of personal reasons, both on our side, and in relation to Neville and his daughter.  And, again, we learned so much about the process that it will help all of the other installations that we do.

I will leave you with one of the last things that Ms. Phillips said.  After we were pretty much done, Ms. Phillips and Ms. Bissett were reviewing the software.  About 5 or 10 minutes into their review, after they had gone through some of the phonics and reading software, she looked at me and said: "How can we ever thank you for this?" - just the comment was thanks enough.