Reporting Gigi Barnett
ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — It’s a business venture designed to help students thousands of miles away in two Caribbean nations.
As Gigi Barnett reports, creators linked the power of technology and English classes to change lives.
In his living room in Ellicott City, Lenji Jacob’s laptop is linked to his students. He teaches English classes for Spanish and Creole speakers and his students are thousands of miles away in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Last year, Jacob teamed up with his close friend Bertony Paul to create iFriendNet. They came up with the idea after visiting the Dominican Republic, which has many jobs in tourism but only for English speakers.
“More than money, they want to share the knowledge with them,” Jacob said.
Paul is originally from Haiti. He says after the 2010 earthquake devastated his country, rebuilding is slow, but many Haitians find jobs by crossing the border to the Dominican Republic.
In addition to the English classes, iFriendNet also teaches courses in customer service and small business creation.
“It’s growing faster than we expected and sometimes, I’m asking myself, ‘Is that true? Or am I dreaming?,’” said Paul.
Paul and Jacob started the classes back in April all on their own dime. Now, they have more than 200 students on a waiting list, and they’re looking to partner with American businesses.
“Hopefully, somebody will recognize us and say, ‘Hey, these people are doing a really good job,’” Jacob said.
And reward the effort.
Jacob and Paul say they’ve spent a combined $10,000 of their own money launching the iFriendNet organization.