Submitted by Mauricio Dinarte on
Over 8 years have passed since there was a DrupalCamp in tropical Nicaragua. With the help of a diverse group of volunteers, sponsors, and university faculty staff, we held our second one. DrupalCamp Lagos y Volcanes ("Lakes & Volcanoes") was a great success with over 100 people attending in 2 days. It was a big undertaking so we followed giants' footsteps to prepare for our event. Lots of the ideas were taken from some of the organizers' experience while attending Drupal events. Others came from local free software communities who have organized events before us. Let me share what we did, how we did it, and what the results were.
In line with DrupalCon, we used the "Big Eight" social identifiers to define diversity and encourage everyone to have a chance to present. Among other statistics, we are pleased that 15% of the sessions and 33% of the trainings were presented by women. We would have liked higher percentages, but it was a good first step. Another related fact is that no speaker presented more than one session. We had the opportunity to learn from people with different backgrounds and expertise.
BADCamp, Drupal's largest event outside of DrupalCons, is truly an inspiration when it comes to making affordable events. They are free! We got close. For $1 attendees had access to all the sessions and trainings, lunch both days, a t-shirt, and unlimited swag while supplies lasted. Of course, they also had the networking opportunities that are always present at Drupal events. Even though the camp was almost free, we wanted to give all interested people a chance to come and learn so we provided scholarships to many attendees.
The camp offered four types of scholarships:
- Ticket cost: we would waive the $1 entry fee.
- Transportation: we would cover any expense for someone to come from any part of the country.
- Lodging: we would provide a room for people to stay overnight if they would come from afar.
- Food: we would pay for meals during the two days of the camp.
About 40% of the people who attended did not pay the entry fee. We also had people traveling from differents parts of the country. Some stayed over. Others travelled back and forth each day. Everyone who requested a scholarship received it. It felt good to provide this type of opportunities and recipients were grateful for it.
As you can imagine, events like these need funding and we are extremely grateful to our sponsors:
- Agaric provided money to cover expenses. They also gave me two full weeks off to focus on camp organization.
- MTech provided money to cover expenses. They also helped with the camp organization and sent speakers to present sessions and trainings.
- The Drupal Association awarded us a Community Cultivation Grant. That money was used directly to fund scholarships and lower the ticket price to $1. If you are not a Drupal Association member yet, please consider joining to support their work.
- Universidad Centroamericana provided the venue and Internet connection at no cost. This was a huge saving! They also helped promote the event among their students.
- Buildamodule.com and Drupalize.me provided free (educational) memberships to give away at the event.
These are people who attended from afar. Some were scholarship recipients. Others got educational memberships.
Although we worked hard to make it possible for interested people to attend, we knew that some would not be able to make it. In fact, having sessions recorded would make it possible for anyone who understands Spanish to benefit from what was presented at the camp.
We used Kevin Thull’s recommended kit to record sessions. My colleague Micky Metts donated the equipment and I did the recording. I had the opportunity to be at some camps that Kevin recorded this year and he was very kind in teaching me how to use the equipment. Unfortunately, the audio is not clear in some sessions and I completely lost one. I have learned from the mistakes and next time it should be better. Check out the camp playlist in Drupal Nicaragua’s YouTube channel for the recordings.
Thank you Kevin. It was through session recordings that I improved my skills when I could not afford to travel to events. I’m sure I am not the only one. Your contributions to the Drupal community are invaluable!
Sprints and live commit!
Lucas Hedding lead a sprint on Saturday morning. Most sprinters were people who had never worked with Drupal before the camp. They learned how to contribute to Drupal and worked on a few patches. One pleasant surprise was when Lucas went on stage with one of the sprinters and proceeded with the live commit ceremony. I was overjoyed that even with a short sprint an attendee’s contribution was committed. Congrats to Jorge Morales for getting a patch committed on his first sprint! And thanks to Holger Lopez, Edys Meza, and Lucas Hedding for mentoring and working on the patch.
Northern Lights DrupalCamp decided to change the (physical) swag for experiences. What we lived was epic! For our camp, we went for a low cost swag. The only thing we had to pay for was t-shirts. Other local communities recommended us to have them and so we did. The rest was a buffet of the things I have collected since my first DrupalCon, Austin 2014: stickers, pins, temporary tattoos. It was funny trying to explain where I had collected each item. I could not remember them all, but it was nice to bring back those memories. We also had hand sanitizer and notebooks provided by local communities. Can you spot your organization/camp/module/theme logo on our swag table?
Free software communities
We were very lucky to have the support of different local communities. We learned a lot from their experiences organizing events. They also sent an army of volunteers and took the microphone to present on different subjects. A special thank you to the WordPress Nicaragua community who helped us immensely before, during, and after the event. It showed that when communities work together, we make a bigger impact.
Two weeks after the camp, we held two Global Training Days workshops. More than 20 people attended. I felt honored when some attendees shared that they had travelled from distant places to participate. One person travelled almost 8 hours. But more than distance, it was their enthusiasm and engagement during the workshops that inspired us. The last month has been very exhausting, but the local community is thrilled with the result.
A blooming community
The community has come a long way since I got involved in 2011. We have had highs and lows. Since Lucas and myself kickstarted the Global Training Days workshops in 2014 we have seen more interest in Drupal. By the way, this edition marked our third anniversary facilitating the workshop! But despite all efforts, people would not stay engaged for long after initially interacting with the community. Things have changed.
In the last year interest in Drupal has increased. We have organized more events and more people have attended. Universities and other organizations are approaching us requesting trainings. And what makes me smile most… the number of volunteers is at its all-time peak. In the last month alone, the number of volunteers have almost doubled. The DrupalCamp and the Global Training Days workshops contributed a lot to this.
We recognize that the job is far from complete and we already have plans for 2018. One of the things that we need to do is find job opportunities. Even if people enjoy working with Drupal they need to make a living. If you are an organization looking for talent consider Nicaragua. We have very great developers. Feel free to get in touch to put you in contact with them.
A personal thank you
I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to Felix Delattre. He started the Drupal community in Nicaragua almost a decade ago. He was my mentor. He gave me my first Drupal gig. At a time when there was virtually no demand for Drupal talent in my country, that project helped me realize that I could make a living working with Drupal. But most importantly, Felix taught me the value of participating in the community. I remember creating my drupal.org account after he suggested it in a local meetup.
His efforts had a profound effect on the lives of many, even beyond the borders of my country or those of a single project. Felix was instrumental in the development of local communities across Central and South America. He also started the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community in Nicaragua. I still find it impressive how OSM Nicaragua have mapped so many places and routes. In some cities, their maps are more accurate and complete than those of large Internet corporations. Thank you Felix for all you did for us!
We hope to have you in 2018!
The land of lakes and volcanoes awaits you next year. Nicaragua has a lot to offer and a DrupalCamp can be the perfect excuse to visit. ;-) Active volcanoes, beaches to surf, forests rich in flora and fauna are some of the charms of this tropical paradise.
Let’s focus on volcanoes for a moment. Check out this website for a sneak peek into one of our active volcanoes. That is Masaya, where you can walk to the border of the crater and see the flow of lava. Active volcanoes, dormant volcanoes, volcanoes around a lake, volcanoes in the middle of a lake, lagoons on top of volcanoes, volcanoes where you can “surf” down the slope... you name it, we have it.
We would love to have you in 2018!
In this album there will be more photos of the event.