Providing Lesotho's Children with Keys to the World

This is the story of our efforts to end the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, inadequate education, and early death
in a remote rural community in Lesotho, Africa, by providing quality education and life skills
to the young children there. Join us on our journey ...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Vodacom Lesotho Extends Internet Coverage

Vodacom Lesotho has expanded it's broadband internet services to all parts of the country that previously could receive only a cellphone signal but no internet signal.  This could be great news for our programs in Ketane, meaning the laptops there might now be able to access the internet. 

This news was reported by Public Eye Online about two months ago:

"Vodacom Lesotho has finished rolling out its broadband internet service (3G) across all its towers to become the first operator to provide internet coverage to the majority in the country.

"This means that any part of the country that has Vodacom signal in Lesotho now also has internet coverage.

"We firmly believe that access to communication services has been a driving force for development in Lesotho and that it continues to be transformational as we work to make accessible, voice, internet and m-pesa services for Basotho."

Read the full story by Public Line Online:  Vodacom Extends Internet Coverage

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Beware of Others Using the Laptops to Lesotho Name

If you see a "laptopstolesotho" URL in some form other than www.laptopstolesotho.org, it is not in anyway associated with our organization, Laptops to Lesotho Inc.

I believe a Chinese network registry company , in conjunction with an individual or business there, is trying to coerce Laptops to Lesotho into paying for the rights to the "laptopstolesotho" domain names and internet keyword in China.

In emails from the network registry company, it's company name was not specified, which made me suspicious from the start.  The company's URL is www . cnwebregistry . net and Jim Gong lists himself as their general manager, though he signed the email only as "Jim".  

Mr. Gong said the business that wants to use our name is called Huayu Ltd.  However, in correspondence with the supposed representative of this company, Jiang Zhihai, neither his title nor the company's name was stated.

Via Mr. Gong, I asked Huayu Ltd. to respect our name and give us the courtesy of finding a different name to use, but Jiang Zhihai refused. 

Unless we pay for the domain names ourselves, we have no legal standing to dispute anyone using our name.  As we have very limited financial resources, we cannot afford to bend to extortion which would divert resources from our valuable humanitarian work. 

While I do not have specific proof that these companies are engaged in actual extortion or a scam, an internet search brings up their names in relation to attempts to coerce others to pay for domain name and internet keyword rights in exactly the same way.  Please feel free to email complaints  about their unethical practices as many times as you like to "Jiang Zhihai" jiang_zhihai088@vip.sina.com and "Jim" jim.gong@cnwebregistry.net.

Janissa


 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

More XOs for students

Taking every opportunity to save on shipping, Janissa just shipped 10 more XO laptops, some spare batteries, and computer mice to a group of Rotarians, who will carry them in their luggage to Maseru. Eight will then go by public transport to Kokobe Primary School in a remote mountain region of Lesotho. Two of the laptops will be awarded to the December 2014 valedictorians of the graduating classes at Kokobe and Nohana Primary Schools. The laptops and batteries were donated to Laptops to Lesotho by I Love My XO. Thank you so much to the Rotarians and I Love My XO.

Travel Alert

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Lesotho to the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for February 28, 2015.U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution and remain abreast of the security situation throughout the electoral period. This Travel Alert expires on March 21, 2015.

As a result of a political and security crisis in late 2014, Lesotho¿s political parties agreed to hold early elections in February 2015. Although Lesotho¿s 2012 parliamentary elections were generally orderly and peaceful, the State Department recommends U.S. citizens maintain a high level of security awareness during the electoral period and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, polling stations, and crowds of any kind. Instances of unrest related to the election are possible, and U.S. citizens should be aware that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent. Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates.

Local stores, including grocery stores, may be closed over the electoral weekend. U.S. citizens are reminded that as a general matter of emergency preparedness, you should maintain adequate supplies of food, water, essential medicines, and other supplies that will allow you to shelter in place for at least 72 hours. Additional recommendations on emergency preparedness are available in Mission South Africa¿s recently-posted "Message for U.S. Citizens: Emergency Preparedness for U.S. Citizens Living Abroad."

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Lesotho enroll in the Department of State¿s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at travel.state.gov. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don¿t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

State Dept. Post 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Project Support

A problem has arisen and it looks like the Nohana teachers will not be attending the January training Tony planned for them.  It is still uncertain whether or not the Kokobe teachers will be able to attend.
 
I had asked the teachers to pay for their own transport and food during training, but the Nohana teachers have just decided that they cannot pay.  Knowing that they might not be able to pay the expenses themselves, I also asked Matlabe to submit a proposal to Solon Foundation to pay for their training expenses.  (Cecily has already told me she would support such a proposal.)  However, Matlabe met with the Nohana School Board, and together they have refused to submit a proposal because they are afraid it will jeopardize their plans to submit a proposal to Solon for new desks. 
 
This is an indication of where Matlabe and the Nohana School Board’s priorities are, and unfortunately, they are not with the computer project.

Part of our original agreement was that the schools would pay a portion of the annual project expenses, and that they would eventually take complete control of the computer project, including funding.  If Matlabe, the teachers, and the Nohana School Board are not willing to make any effort, let alone personal sacrifices, to improve their own computer skills so they can help their students, then I see no reason for L2L to pay their share of the expenses. 

They are leaning on L2L too much and not doing enough for themselves.  It is my opinion that we must stay true to the project’s guiding philosophy.  We must let the project’s success or failure rest on their shoulders.

It is not clear yet how the Kokobe teachers will respond to the request to pay their expenses, either out of their own pockets or via a grant proposal.  I am hopeful that Alice will work with Florence to submit a proposal to Solon Foundation.   Florence is looking into the possibility of holding training just for the Kokobe teachers, possibly in Mohale’s Hoek, with lodging in a school dorm there.  It would cost the Kokobe teachers significantly less to travel to Mohale’s Hoek than to Morija or Maseru.

If that does not work out, we will fall back on Plan B.  The teachers would submit questions to Florence, then she and Mamatsepe would meet with Tony in Maseru to get his answers to the teachers questions.  Tony could also provide them further training on the XO laptops and the school servers, then Florence and Mamatsepe would travel to Ketane and train the teachers there.

Today is my last day as President of Laptops to Lesotho.  I have responded to these latest events as I saw best, a continuation of my slow dance of nudging, guiding, reinforcing, and prodding the Lesotho participants to get them to move in the direction I think will ensure their success.  As of tomorrow, it will be up to you all whether or not to continue down this path.  Whatever course you take, I have faith in you, and I look forward to supporting your efforts in the future.

Best wishes for a happy and fulfilling new year,
Janissa

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Review

My wonderful son, Craig, was born in Lesotho.  He loves to give unique and thoughtful gifts for birthdays, holidays, etc.  He did not disappoint me on my birthday.  Knowing my continued interest in Lesotho, he took the time to find books with Lesotho as the setting.

The first book I read was The Mountain School written by Peace Corps Volunteer Greg Alder.  Peace Corps Volunteers have a unique perspective on village life as they live as the Basotho do.  The author helped me experience what it is really like to live in the village of Tsoeneng.  I found his writing insightful, and it helped me get to know the characters in his book.  He was respectful of the culture and helped me experience life first hand in a Lesotho village.  The book was engaging and well written.  You can read more reviews and purchase it as an e-book on Amazon.

The other two books are Singing Away the Hunger, an autobiography by Mpho ‘M’ Atsep Nthunya, and Basali!: Stories by and about women in Lesotho. The books are on my nightstand and will be devoured over the Christmas break.

Sala hantle,

Kathy

Monday, October 27, 2014

Proposed Budget for 2015

L2L Treasurer Vicki Panhuise and President Janissa Balcomb held an informal budget meeting on October 26th to draw up a draft budget for 2015, to present to the Board at their next meeting.
 
Here are the seven primary items L2L hopes to fund in 2015 --
  • Lesson Development and Software Licenses ($250)
  • Teacher & Student Training at Kokobe and Nohana Primary Schools ($7000)
  • Phase I of Project Expansion at Pela Tsoeu ($3524)
    • Evaluation,
    • Community Organization,
    • Leadership Development and Mentoring,
    • Limited Initial Hardware and Software Deployment, and
    • Introductory Teacher and Student Training
  • Volunteer Stipend, Expenses, & Training ($3576)
  • Hardware Repair and Replacement (from normal use) at Kokobe and Nohana ($2940)
    • deep-cycle solar power system batteries
    • laptop batteries, screens, keyboards, motherboards, replacement laptops
  • Shipment of donated laptops from Pueblo West High School to Lesotho ($1300)
  • Miscellaneous expenses ($300)