Celebrating Apps for Good students in Portugal

Mohima Ahmed, Apps for Good Trustee, Fellow and former student, shares her experiences of visiting the end of year Apps for Good festival in Portugal. 

In 2010, I participated in the Pilot Apps for God course at my school in Tower Hamlets, London, where our team created Transit – an English/Bengali translation app for parent-teacher conferences. On completing the course, I became a Fellow and helped out at events as an advocate. Recently, I joined the Apps for Good Board as a trustee. Five years after taking part in the UK pilot scheme, I had the opportunity to see what students in the Portuguese pilot scheme where doing! It was my first business trip abroad and I felt like the fanciest 20 year old alive!

The Apps for Good pilot scheme in Portugal took place throughout the 2014/2015 school year and involved 30 schools in Lisbon and Porto. Like in all Apps for Good courses, students worked together in teams to develop app ideas to solve issues affecting their world.

Now, while all the teams I met on my visit had very unique and interesting ideas, one app from Lisbon that really stood out for me was Ebssa-Especial, designed to help children with speech problems communicate with teachers. The problem was inspired by the fact that 90% of the students in the school the girls attend have learning disabilities, many with speech difficulties. The girls used their classmates and teachers to put together all their research and the prototype for the app is currently being used in the school, attracting a lot of positive feedback. The team won 1st prize at the Apps for Good festival held in Lisbon and what struck me most was, when the students went up to collect the award, their teachers started crying. The head teacher even went on to take the microphone and very emotionally let us all know just how proud she was of her students. If there was ever a “poster story” for what this course is – it’s these girls and what they’ve created: a true APP FOR GOOD!

The team behind Ebssa-Especial and their teachers

Of course, the schools in Porto were just as exciting and my favourite story is the one behind Baby Care – an app for pregnant women to store their baby information and find out all the imperative information expectant mothers so frantically search for. The best part about this app for me was its creator – an 11 year BOY! Being the older sister of a pre-pubescent boy, I can tell you that the struggles of a pregnant woman isn’t something a lot of them think about, but that wasn’t the case for Junior Vilela – whose mum has been pregnant many times. This just showcases exactly why I love Apps for Good. It gives a voice to young kids to tackle whatever they want – and the outcomes always amaze. It’s not often 11 year old boys get to help make life easier for pregnant women but at Apps for Good, it’s just another day at the office.

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Junior Vilela created an app to help expectant mothers

Now there’s no way I can end this bog without giving a MASSIVE shout out to the awesome Apps for Good team at Portugal. They were welcoming, friendly and VERY Portuguese (that means they hug – A LOT) which saw me lose the stiff British reserve very quickly – they don’t like it when you offer handshakes over kisses on the cheek so just don’t do it. The one phrase they taught me translates to “I’m hungry, feed me” so we got along just fine. The team there isn’t a team – it’s a family and so I’ll end this much longer than intended piece with a picture of me with the Portuguese family (yes, we used a selfie stick – don’t judge.)

Mohima with the Apps for Good team in Portugal
Mohima with the Apps for Good team in Portugal