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 ...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Generous Donation from the Keller Family

Karl Keller, Rebecca Keller Mondore, Sara Lee Keller,
Cindy Keller Barton, Vicki Keller Panhuise, Kent Keller
Laptops to Lesotho received a very generous Christmas donation, made in the name of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Marge and George Keller, and Marge Keller's sister, Mary Dewar.  The donation was made in memory of Marge (Dewar) & George Keller, and Ruth (Dewar) & Bob Balcomb. 

Dewar Sisters:  Ruth Balcomb, Marge Keller, Mary Dewar

Bob & Ruth Balcomb
Marge, George, Ruth, and Bob would be very proud of your generosity and would rejoice in your support of our work to provide a better education to the children of Lesotho.  Thank you so much! 
- Janissa Balcomb

Update from Tony in Maseru

I got the following email from Tony Anderson today.  He has been in Maseru the past week working with Florence Monoto.  It sounds like they have accomplished a lot in a short period of time.   In addition to the progress listed in this email, he also conducted training with five teachers from Ketane.   Thanks Tony and Florence for all your hard work for Laptops to Lesotho!
With help from Florence, we have been able to collect the Journal logs from all but one laptop. Laptop K36 has a bad screen (defect covers right half of screen).  It looks like the laptops were used throughout the year.

The Kokobe school server has all of the software. I am loading the content on the Nohana server at the moment. This will probably take most of the night (it seems to take about 14 hours for 800GB).

The primary remaining problem is to install a Flash player that Firefox 26 and the Browse activity recognize. Sugar has gnash installed which they see as a flash plugin but which does not work.

Ole Nepal has solved the problem but, unfortunately, only for the XO-4. They are still using 0.82 for the XO-1s. They also incorporate the changes in the build not by a post-install script as I am doing. I'll keep working with them until it is resolved.

The Pustakalaya library works (including the global map, full English Wikipedia plus the Simple English plus the Wiki4Schools, and Gutenberg collection). Khan Academy Lite works and includes the Khan Academy videos. These play although the IIAB versions don't - go figure. Old Time Radio works including mp3 but Talk English (also mp3) doesn't. Wiktionary works.

I installed the Learn activity because there were some problems with Browse and some of the new content. Actually, I think Firefox and Browse are on similar footing now. However, the Learn activity does allow the milestones to be downloaded. I don't have that implemented in the Browse version yet. This means that Kokobe and Nohana will have the same content as last year plus all the new stuff.

Florence will need to flash the laptops at Kokobe and Nohana when she goes. She spent most of yesterday learning the procedure.

We visited the electric store yesterday but our guy wasn't there. They have a 100w panel for 2500M which should do the job. Florence has the business card and can get the panel before leaving for Ketane.

Essentially, I think we did everything on the list (a first!). There will be some update opportunities for you when you go, especially enabling EPaath. I certainly hope and expect to have that under control by ScaleX12.

- Janissa

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Poem to Honor Donor Ellen Garber

I wrote the following poem, adapted from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, to thank my friend, Ellen Garber, for making a very substantial donation yesterday to Laptops to Lesotho.  Ellen made the donation in memory of my parents, Ruth and Robert Balcomb:
"Their lives were works of art that inspired us all.


'Twas the night before Sunday, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Dirty laundry hung carelessly over a chair,
In hopes someone else would remove it from there.

The cats were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of catnip danced in their heads.
With Carl in his pj’s, and I in my cap,
We’d just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

When from my computer there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my keyboard to see what was the matter.
Away to my inbox I flew in great haste,
And clicked on the email listed there in boldface.

Bright light on the screen glared like new fallen snow,
Making me squint and read words a tad slow.
Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a gigantic donation the size of a steer.

While the enormous number made my knees shake,
I knew in a moment it must be a mistake.
“Holy S**t, Ellen! That can’t be right!”
Your fingers a-slipping, you must have mis-typed.

The shock had me reeling, my mind was a-drift,
How do I say thank you for such a great gift?
A bundle of computers, solar panels too,
Will bring education to children Bantu.

I can hear all the laughter, their joy, and their glee,
When they see the technology arriving with me.
And so it was that I exclaimed with delight,
“Lesotho’s children will sleep better this very good night.”

- Janissa

Monday, December 9, 2013

Next L2L Trip to Lesotho - March & April 2014

Normally, this time of year, I am either in Lesotho or preparing to go to Lesotho.  Prior to 2012, L2L conducted deployment and training in November and December, at the end of the Lesotho school year.  After the 2011 training, the local staff decided they would rather have training before the start of the school year.  So, our last trip took place from December 2012 into February 2013. 

Unfortunately, we ran into some serious scheduling problems because the Ministry of Education and Training made very last-minute changes to the school system schedule, delaying the starting date by two weeks and conducting teacher training that overlapped with our planned training. 

To avoid a similar problem, our next training trip will be during the school term, in March and April 2014.  This will coincide with Spring Break for L2L volunteers who are teachers in the U.S., making it easier for them to take time off work for the trip. 

[Note:  We don't travel to Lesotho during the U.S. summer months because of weather considerations.  June through August is winter in Lesotho, which can mean heavy snowfalls that make travel impossible, and subzero temperatures, which makes training difficult as there is no heat in the classrooms or homes where volunteers stay.]

Three L2L volunteers from the U.S. are planning to make the trip in March and April 2014 - myself, Kathy Plath, and Sarah Gardner.  Kathy is a teacher in Colorado who helped on the last trip.  Sarah is a teacher in Indiana and is on the L2L Board of Directors, serving as Secretary.  Sarah has been actively involved in L2L from the very start.  This will be her first trip to Lesotho.

The trip will be shorter than previous trips, probably a total of 3½ weeks.  We will not be doing any new deployment, but will focus on student and teacher training.  Because Nohana Primary School has declined our offer for additional training in 2014, we expect to be working almost exclusively at our second site, Kokobe Primary School.

We are waiting to hear from Alice Ranthimo, the principal at Kokobe, and the School Committee to confirm the exact dates of training.

In the coming months, Sarah, Kathy, and I will be working on lesson plans in preparation for the trip.

- Janissa


Friday, October 18, 2013

Rotary Club Funding Received

Laptops to Lesotho has received a grant from the Unadilla Rotary Club, Maseru Rotary Club, and Rotary International for $7,500.

The money will help support a Mosotho in-country volunteer, provide additional technical support to the schools in Ketane, expand our audio-visual capacity for creating and translating country-specific educational materials, replace malfunctioning touchpads and weak speakers, and purchase more XO laptops and solar chargers.

A huge Thank You to these Rotary Clubs  for their support helping us improve education in rural Lesotho!  A special thank-you to Rotarian Donald Tuttle who facilitated this grant.

Grant Specifics
  1. Volunteer Living Expenses    $2,400
    For housing and food for the project volunteer while staying in Ketane
  2. Volunteer Travel Expenses    $360
    For work-related trips between Ketane and Maseru by the project volunteer
  3. Communications    $300
    For work-related phone and internet services for the project volunteer
  4. Technical Support    $1,000
    For hiring I.T. specialist(s) to install and maintain project equipment at the schools
  5. Audio Recording Equipment    $300
    For purchase of voice recording and editing equipment for creation and translation of educational audio materials
  6. Computer Peripherals    $600
    For purchase of 150 computer mice to use in place of malfunctioning touchpads and 150 headphones in place of weak speakers (problems inherent on the XO-1 laptop model)
  7. New XO Laptops    $2300
    For purchase of 20 new XO laptops, charging station, router, and spare batteries.
  8. Miscellaneous Expenses    $240

Unadilla Rotary Club, New York
District 7170
Maseru Rotary Club, Lesotho
District 9370
Rotary International
- Janissa

I'm Ba-aaack!

After a long, very difficult period in my life, I am back from my family leave and re-immersing myself in my Laptops to Lesotho work.  Although I'm still not 100%, and will not be back to full speed for a while, I hope to start our project moving forward again.
I would like to thank our L2L Directors, Sherrie Howey and Sarah Gardner, for covering for me in my absence.  Thanks too to all the L2L volunteers and funders for giving me their unconditional support.  You really helped me, more than you can know.
- Janissa

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

OLPC XO Batteries Out of Stock

*ilovemyxo* posted:

"We have officially depleted our stock of replacement batteries for the XO laptop.
 Unfortunately we are unable to order more from OLPC." 

This is not good news. The XO batteries wear out and need to be replaced periodically. Unless we can find an alternative source, this could cause us serious problems in the future.   

- Janissa