What I Learned During My Time Volunteering In Africa Building Modern JavaScript-Based Websites

Dave Powers
Slackjaw
Published in
4 min readAug 3, 2020

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Photo by Damian Patkowski on Unsplash

Having just returned home from a full summer volunteering in Africa, I can say that it was indeed the truly life-changing experience I had hoped it would be. There are many things we take for granted in our day-to-day lives, such as our access to cutting edge Silicon Valley technology, and I’m very thankful I was able to use these resources to better the lives of those less fortunate.

I’d never been outside the United States before, so I was very excited for the chance to travel. Upon arriving at what would be my home for the next few months, the residents greeted us and were so incredibly kind and welcoming. And I’d be remiss to not mention the breathtaking sky. A gradient of colors from #FFC600, to #CE2000, to #546C90.

However, I couldn’t help but notice some of the subpar conditions. For instance, their websites were not responsive, and did not automatically adjust their design to reflect the fact that I was browsing using a mobile device.

The infrastructure was also woefully inadequate. Sure, they had proper sanitation and transportation systems, but the vast majority of people had bloated webpack configurations, their Node packages had numerous unpatched critical security flaws, and several developers still insisted on supporting Internet Explorer 11.

Though I was looking forward to connecting with the locals and exploring the land, I knew there was a lot of hard work ahead of me.

Despite all of this, the children were adorable, and had the biggest and brightest smiles. Others in my group tried to bribe them with candy, but of course they’d had sweets before. That’s why I decided to truly delight them by running a Google Lighthouse audit on my newly-created site as it scored perfect 100s across the board in performance, best practices, and SEO. Fully enclosed green circles for every metric. Now that’s a real treat!

One child in particular, Chiamaka, a young girl no more than four years old, took a liking to me. She was so adorable. I wanted her to have something to remember me by, so I spent one weekend building her a progressive web app with stylish UI elements. It works even when you’re offline. To really make this gift special, I…

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Dave Powers
Slackjaw

Writer of humor and code. Has multiple plaques (the ornamental kind). https://davepowers.me