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 ...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rules and Regulations, Contracts & Fine Schedules

I've posted the agreements that the Nohana Primary School teachers worked out to guide Our Treasure Highland Computer Project.

You can see these at OTHCP Agreements or go to our Page listings to the right and click on "2011 Rules and Regulations, Contracts, and Fine Schedules."

Developing these documents took up a large portion of our time during our stay in Ketane. This, however, was not a waste of time. We spent a number of days discussing every eventuality we could think of and how to deal with each one. At first, it was like pulling teeth to get the teachers to come up with solutions, but they finally learned that we weren't going to tell them what to do, and they came up with their own set of rules and regulations for the project. We turned those into a series of separate contracts for students, parents, teachers, the school and Laptops to Lesotho. The rules and regulations and all the contracts will be translated into Sesotho before being presented for parents and students to sign.

The contract work was excruciating, and everyone dreaded those sessions. But they all attended them, and throughout the process they agreed that it was necessary and important work. I think the process was as important as the result, and I think this is what will hold the project together in the long run. Everybody knows what is expected of them, what they are responsible for, what the benefits are, and what the consequences will be when anything goes wrong.

The rules and contracts give a lot of insight into our project. I think they are well worth reading.

- Janissa

Friday, December 24, 2010

Orphans at Nohana Primary School

Here's a graph of the number and type of orphans at Nohana Primary School, broken down by grade and girls and boys. 

Nearly one of every three students at the school are classified as orphans.  Seventy-one (23%) have lost one parent, and 19 (6%) have lost both parents, most due to the AIDS epidemic.

paternal = father died
maternal = mother died
complete = both parents died

All the children in Ketane need our help, but these children especially. We are working hard to give them a better future.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's Next?

There is still more to be done to guarantee the long-term sustainability of this project. Our main goals for the near future are two-fold:
  • Our first major goal is to continue working closely with the teachers. We want to help them maintain and advance their computer skills and to help them develop lessons and classroom materials using the laptops.
  • Our second major goal is to expand the solar power system and to increase the number of computers at the school so more children can take them home.
  • We also want to develop a more comprehensive method of evaluating the real gains of this project.
- Janissa

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 Trip Report Available

I've posted a detailed report of what we did and did not accomplish on our recent trip. 

Click here to see the report: 2010 Trip Report

You can also find the report by going to our Pages list in the right hand column and clicking on "2010 Trip Report." 

- Janissa

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recent Donations & Pledges

Recently, we have been very fortunate to receive several large pledges of funding and a number of cash donations:

Maseru Rotary Club - M10,000 (about $1500)
Anonymous Foundation - R50,000 (about $7500)

Cash Donations
Faye Farmer - $25
Mike Fisher - $20
O'Hara Fleming - $250
Peter Siegenthaler - $100
USFWS Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex employees - $100

Ninety of the 314 students at Nohana Primary School are classified as orphans. Those children meet their daily needs with help from their extended families, the local community, and the World Food Program, which provides them with two basic meals each day.

What our project hopes to do is look beyond their immediate daily needs and save their futures. We strive to prepare them to achieve better, healthier lives so their children, and grandchildren, aren't destined to face life as orphans.

Thank you for your support. Together we are making a positive change and giving these children real hope for a better future.

- Janissa

Monday, December 20, 2010

First Deployment Trip: Planned Objectives and Tasks Accomplished

Here's a quick summary of the objectives of our recent trip to Lesotho and what we actually managed to accomplish. Much more detailed information will follow soon.  
  1. Deliver computers and supplies to Nohana Primary School:
         Completed, except scanner - repair part ordered 
  2. Provide secure storage for laptops and project supplies:
  3. Supply additional educational and HIV/AIDS materials:
         Partially completed, ongoing 
  4. Set up a generator and charging system to power the laptops:
         Mostly completed, system functional, will be fully completed soon
  5. Set up a network server with internet access:
         Not completed, though we expect it to be completed before the new school year in January
  6. Train the teachers in computer skills, how to use the laptops for lessons in their classrooms, basic laptop reformatting and repairs, and generator operation and maintenance:
  7. Negotiate contracts between all parties involved:
  8. Develop community and regional support:
         Successful, ongoing
All in all, the project has been a great success thus far. There were a few glitches that still need to be addressed, but that's not unexpected when working in a developing nation and a very remote setting. All the glitches are being actively dealt with, and we believe they will be resolved in the very near future.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Back from Lesotho

My brother, Craig, and I have been back a little over a week from our trip to Lesotho.  There is so much to tell, and still so much more work to do.  Over the next week or so, I'll try to fill you in on all that happened on our trip.  

In the meantime, you can see a photo album of our trip, with informative captions, at Laptops to Lesotho 2010 trip.  This link takes you to a page of thumbnails.  Click on 'View Photos' to see the larger versions.

- Janissa

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Time to Leave

I'm leaving in about 8 hours for the airport to start my journey to Lesotho.  I will be stopping in Ohio for a few days to visit family, then heading for Jo'burg with my brother Craig where we will meet four of the team members and two other Ketane teachers for training at the Kliptown Youth Project.

There's more news but I need to go finish packing and then get some sleep.

- Janissa

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Library Presentation a Fundraising Failure

I gave my presentation at the Soda Springs Library on Tuesday to an audience of one.  :(  That was a complete waste of time.  I was really discouraged and went out for ice cream and chocolate afterwards. 

I found out today that a group of four of my neighbors had planned to go but got the time wrong.  That makes me feel a little better. 

The one person who did attend was a Library Board Member, and she was extremely interested in Lesotho and our project.  She asked so many questions that my half hour presentation ended up being over an hour long.

On a brighter note, I received a $200 donation from my mother-in-law.  Thanks Adele!

- Janissa

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dates for FIPE Professional Exchange

The Foundation for International Professional Exchange (FIPE) has been involved in this project from its inception.  They have provided $1600 in funding for hardware, and they've pledged to pay the expenses for Matlabe Teba, prinical/teacher at Nohana Primary School, to come to the U.S. as part of a professional and cultural exchange. 

We've had a little trouble working out dates for the trip, but it looks like now Matlabe will come over around March 14, 2011, for several weeks.  He will spend that time in Colorado, where both Andrew Dernovsek and FIPE are based.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Needs Assessment Visit at Ketane Today

Dr. Kasongo should be traveling to Ketane today to perform the needs asssessment for our network and internet system.  I hope his trip goes well.

- Janissa

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rejection from Brinson Foundation

I got a letter from the Brinson Foundation.  They've rejected my request for funding.  Bummer!

- Janissa

Friday, October 8, 2010

Additional Funding from Friends of Lesotho - Another Step Closer

The Friends of Lesotho Donation Committee has approved an additional request for $700 to fund a gas generator.  They will pass this request on to the full board, and we should know fairly soon if the FOL Board approves the request.

I submitted the request to FOL because I have been having trouble getting donations for solar power, and we desperately need some sort of power to run all the computers.  I had hoped to use a gas generator as our back-up power source, but until we get additional funding for solar panels, it will have to be our primary power supply.

FOL has already donated $1436 for internet hardware and service and security supplies.

- Janissa

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hole-in-the-Wall Computer & Minimally Invasive Education

We are having some interesting discussions about a program that started in India using a single computer with internet access placed outdoors in a wall where anybody and everybody could use it.  (It looks like an ATM.)

It was so successful that kids with no education at all were teaching themselves.  The program has since been expanded, and they even have computers at playgrounds now.  We are tossing around the idea and wondering if we should try putting one of our XO laptops outdoors like this in Ketane.

The India project found some very interesting results.  It worked best for 6-12 year olds and those in groups of about 4.  One thing they learned was that regardless of the language on the computer, the kids were able to learn how to use it and discover features and information all on their own.  They tried giving the kids some physics questions and let them look for the answers on their own.  The result was pretty amazing.  That led to the concept of minimally invasive education, teaching by asking questions.

If you'd like to learn more about the Hole-in-the-Wall project and minimally invasive education, check out:

- Janissa

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trip Preparations Continue - immunizations, plane tickets, costs

I'm working hard to get everything ready for the trip to Lesotho.  I leave in just over 3 weeks, and there are still a lot of details to attend to.  Fortunately, the team members in Ketane and South Africa are taking care of everything at that end, so I don't have to worry about any of that.

I've gotten my one and only immunization, and Craig is in the process of getting all of his.  A bit of sticker shock there ... immunizations are really pricey anymore.  My third Hepatitis A/B shot alone cost nearly $80.  Craig's will cost over $600.  Ouch!  (literally & figuratively)

I've bought the plane tickets for the two of us, thanks to a generous donation from our parents.  We got really good deals on the price.  Craig's round-trip from Dayton, Ohio, cost $1200.  I've got a multi-city itinerary, starting in Idaho Falls, going to Ohio, Johannesburg, then back to Idaho Falls (via Atlanta and Salt Lake City).  With all the extra stops, my ticket only cost about $100 more than Craig's.  What a deal!  The last time I flew from SLC to Jo'burg, in 2008, it cost $1500, and that was without any extra stops.  My frequent flyer miles covered 60%, so the total cost to me was just $500!

- Janissa

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MS STIC Ketane Trip & Needs Assessment - plan update

After many communication problems, 'Ntate Matlabe traveled twice to Maseru to make arrangements for Dr. Kasongo Kalanda to travel to Ketane to do a needs assessment for our network and internet.  This was a HUGE commitment of time for Matlabe.  As I understand it, a one-way trip from Ketane to Maseru involves a 9-12 hour bus trip, much of that time on some very bad mountain roads.

As for the plans, so far I've heard that they were able to work out dates for the trip.  Dr. Kasongo will go to Ketane on October 11.  On his return, he will meet with the internet provider Vodacom Lesotho and get the needs assessment to me on October 13.

This is fantastic news after so much delay.  I'll be able to start making plans to acquire the necessary equipment so we can install the system before distributing the laptops.

THANK YOU 'Ntate Matlabe for the extra effort.

- Janissa

Monday, October 4, 2010

Article for Local Newspaper

I was interviewed yesterday by the author Ellen Carney.  (She has published a number of books about the history of this area.)  She is writing up a nice long article about Laptops to Lesotho for the local newspaper.  Hopefully, it will drum up interest in my presentation/ fundraiser at the local library on October 12. 

I also designed a flyer to post at local area business to advertise the event.  I'll head to town in a few days to put those up.

- Janissa

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How the Laptops will get to Lesotho

We've got roughly 40 laptops and miscellaneous supplies to get from the U.S. to Lesotho, about 150 pounds worth.  If we were to ship all that, it would cost about $800.  But I've found a way to avoid most of that cost and save the project hundreds of dollars.

If Craig and I fly on Delta as planned, between the two of us, we can check up to 200 pounds of luggage free.  I've been in touch with Delta and TSA about the possibility of taking the laptops in our checked luggage.  There are apparently no TSA restrictions on putting computers in your checked luggage.  (This was news to me.)  Apparently, it is just the airlines who discourage the practice because most computers wouldn't survive the manhandling.  But the XO laptops are pretty rugged little computers.  They were designed to withstand bumps, drops, and manhandling by kids.  We'll just be sure to pack and cushion them really well, and they should be fine.

Craig and I would have to pack light for our personal gear -- less than 25 pounds each, plus whatever we can take as carry on.  But I think we can manage that.

That still leaves getting all the laptops from Idaho to Ohio, where I will meet Craig.  The cheapest way would be to send them via Delta Cargo.  That would cost just $90, but it would require me to make an all-day trip to Salt Lake City, which adds about $40 worth of gas.  If I take the laptops as excess baggage, it would be more convenient but would cost $357.   I have to think about that a bit.

- Janissa

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fundraising Event - Soda Springs Library on Oct 12 at 7 p.m.

I'm giving a 30-minute presentation at the local library in Soda Springs, Idaho, on Tuesday October 12 at 7 p.m.  I'll talk briefly about Lesotho geography, history, and culture, then talk about the Laptops to Lesotho project. The presentation is open to the public and is free of charge, though donations will be accepted.

A writer for the Caribou County Sun newspaper, Ellen Carney, has offered to write a story for the paper about Laptops to Lesotho and include a notice about the presentation.  The library has copies of our brochure to hand out, and I'll be making flyers to post at the library and businesses around town.

- Janissa

Contact with Lesotho Embassy in Washington DC

I spoke on the phone with First Secretary 'M'e Matoka Phori of the Lesotho Embassy in Washington DC on Tuesday, Sept 21.  She was happy to hear about our project and was very helpful.  We had a very pleasant conversation.  Here's what we discussed: 
  • L2L does not need to register with the government in Lesotho.
  • Craig & I do not need work visas because we are staying less than 3 months.
  • The Lesotho Government will waive customs fees for Laptops to Lesotho.  I need to send them more information, then they will notify the border officials.
  • 'M'e Matoka is going to make inquiries about the best computer and electronics stores to do business with.
- Janissa

Friday, September 24, 2010

More Grant Requests Sent

I've sent a Letter of Inquiry to The Sidgmore Family Foundation and a Grantseekers Information Form to the Brinson Foundation, the first step in the grant application process for each foundation. 

The Brinson Foundation appears to be a good fit for our project and will review our application next month, but they are curtailing their funding of new projects and only accept new applications when previously funded projects have ended.

BTW:  If anyone wants to see any of the application materials I've sent out, to these or other organization, email me and I'll be happy to send you the information.

FYI:  I found these two foundations through the GrantStation database.

- Janissa

Ketane Prepares for Upcoming Deployment

Here's an email from Delia I received today with details about how the community is actively involved and preparing for the deployment of laptops in November:

Hello 'Me Janissa

I have been working along side Ntate Matlabe, Natate Mapesh and the teachers at Nohana Primary with the computer project and they have been been busy preparing for your visit. Ntate Matlabe and Ntate Mapesh asked me to send you an email to update you on the goings on here in Ketane. I have also included some of the questions that have been asked in order to help the teachers better preapre for you and your brother's fast approaching visit.

1. Regarding Dr Kasongo: Ntate Matlabe said he has tried to get in contact with Dr. Kasongo both through e-mail and phone but with no success. Ntate Matlabe understands the importance of Dr. Kasongo's role in the project and so Ntate Matlabe has gone to Maseru this weekend to try and meet with Dr. Kasongo face to face and arrange a time for him to visit Nohana Primary in order to conduct a needs asessment. We are all hopeful that they have an opportunity to meet and Dr. Kasongo will soon be visiting Ketane.

2. While Ntate Matlabe is in Maseru he is also going to inform the Ministry of Education, Catholic Schools Secretary, and the Teachers Service Department of your upcoming visit and your assistance in Ketane so they will be prepared for your visit to Lesotho.

3. The teachers at Nohana Primary are all working very hard in prepartation for your visit as well. They are setting up a computer room and are working to ensure that it is secure and ready for your arrival and the arrival of the XO Laptops.

4. The teachers have also assumed the responsibility of informing the local police, community council, area chiefs, the PIH clinic and other influential community members for your visit and your need to meet with them once you have arrived.

5. The teachers have all worked together to answer the 49 "what-if" questions that you had presented to them. The questions have been answered and I can send them to you if you wish or they will be printed and ready for you when you arrive here. **It is important to note there was some confusion regarding a couple of the questions so it may be best, if you have the time, for me to send them to you for your review. Otherwise the questions can be sorted out when you have arrived.

6. In preparation for the new computers, a group of students have been chosen to learn the XO Laptops and serve as student leaders. There are a total of 24 student leaders from standard 5, 6 & 7 who will learn the XO Laptops.

7. The teachers have also scheduled computer lessons with Aaron and I to learn and enhance their basic computer skills so that those going to the Kliptown Training will be prepared.

8. Ntate Matlabe and Ntate Mapesh were also wondering how many teachers will be able to attend the Kliptown training based on your available resources? They would like to know so that they can select the most appropriate teachers to send to the training.

9. Teachers have been selected to prepare for you and your borther's arrival and they want to ensure your needs are met and you and your brother are both comfortable. In order to prepare they have a couple questions regarding what you will need over your visit.

-- Will you and Craig require two separate rooms or can you share a room?
-- Do you plan to cook for yourselves or will you need all meals prepared during the duration of your visit?
-- Do you have a preference staying on the Nohana Mission Campus (where the primary school is located) or in the local community village?
-- Since Ketane is very rural if there are any special accommodations or dietary needs you and your brother require? Please let Ntate Matlabe and Ntate Mapesh know so they can adequately prepare for your visit.

Thank you and we look forward to speaking with you again very soon!


Delia A. Helie (Boitumelo Nohana)
PCV Lesotho

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Website Updates

I've updated the About Us section of the website. If you think there are other changes that need to be made, noticed some incorrect info, would like to be included, or would like me to add a picture of you, please email me or Janissa and I'll edit it as soon as I can!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Updates from August & early September

My apologies ... I am long overdue for updating this blog.  It's been a busy time with lots of things happening.  Here's a quick summary:

Team Members
  • Delia Helie, a new Peace Corps Volunteer in Ketane, has offered to help.
  • Shaun Ilderton, our I.T. specialist from Durban, has resigned due to time conflicts.  He will be returning the two XO laptops he has.
  • Matlabe has started using his new email account.  Please add to your address book.
Fundraising & Donations
  • Janissa submitted a grant application to EiF (Engineering Information Foundation).
  • We've received a number of personal donations, including several online contributions through and Facebook Causes.
  • Janissa set up a Laptops to Lesotho table at a local rodeo and raised $60.
  • We received a donated XO laptop (nonfunctioning, usable for spare parts) from an unknown person in California.
  • Janissa is working on grant applications to Ananda Foundation and an anonymous foundation.
  • Craig is working with teachers in the Cincinnati area on fundraising.
  • Diane McWethy is working on fundraising through the Goshen Public Library.
  • Maureen Powell and her husband carried eight of our XO laptops from the U.S. to Maseru.  They had no trouble going through security and paid no customs fees.  The laptops are currently being stored by Deepak Pullanikkatil of Peace Corps/Lesotho, awaiting pickup by someone from Ketane.
Partners & Support
Initial and/or follow-up contact was made with the following people and organizations.  I'll write more about these in upcoming blogs.
  • Jane Hale, Family Literacy Lesotho, & Peter Maphatsoe, Family Art & Literacy Center
  • Colleen Smith, MindSet
  • Angel Knapp, GrantStation
  • Andrew Steele & Bill Thompson, BLOOM Africa
  • South African representative of a Swiss foundation which wishes to remain anonymous
  • Jennifer, I Love My XO
  • Nia Lewis & Adam Holt, One Laptop Per Child
  • OLPC News Forum
  • Adi Nochur,
  • Matlabe is still working on arrangements to have Dr Kasongo of MS STIC travel to Ketane for a needs assessment for our school network and internet connection (no dates set yet)
  • Fortunate is still working on arrangements for teacher training at Kliptown Youth Project (no dates set yet)
  • Janissa is making arrangements to travel to Lesotho in November and December (approx Nov 2-Dec 7).  Her brother, Craig, will probably travel with her to help with training.
  • Janissa has created a Google online calendar for the public to view L2L events and also a private Google calendar for team members to post their schedules on.
  • Aaron is still trying to figure out why the USB modems don't work in Ketane.
  • Mapesh & Matlabe are working out contract details and what-if scenarios
Janissa needs to follow up on fundraising through:
  • Deepak Pullanikkatil, Maseru Rotary,
  • Cindy, Soda Springs Library, and
  • Shawnae Somsen, Soda Springs Public Schools.
Janissa needs to follow up technical assistance through:
  • Jennifer Getz, eduWeavers (eSibonisweni)
  • Indiana University OHOT (One Here One There)
  • Seth Woodworth
  • Cilliers du Preez
  • Malizo Sinono, GCNS Communication
Brochure & Business Cards
  •  Janissa has created a three-panel color brochure you can print double-sided on an 8½ x 11 sheet. The brochure was very well received at its first fundraising event, the Grays Lake rodeo. Contact Janissa if you want to receive a copy of the pdf for your own fundraising events.
  • Janissa has also ordered business cards for herself. The minimum order size was 250, so she'll have lots of extras if you'd like to have some. They have the L2L contact info including the new website & email addresses.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We have a NEW Website Address:

Sarah has switched our official home page to a much more memorable website URL:  Same look, new address.

We also have new email addresses to go with it:

Team members:  If you would like an email address through our organization, please let Sarah or me know.

Thanks Sarah for all your hard work!

- Janissa

Friday, July 30, 2010

Microsoft STIC leader to visit Ketane

I spoke to Dr. Kasongo of the Microsoft School Technology Innovation Center (STIC) today. It sounds like he will be able to help us a great deal. In general, he said that Microsoft can help us with hardware, software, maintenance, and advice.

To begin with, he has offered to travel to Ketane to take a look at the school and surrounding area in order to determine what we will need in the way of network hardware and the best way for us to connect to the internet. After he has seen the site, he will write up a 'needs assessment' for us. The network and internet system is something I've been concerned about and haven't been able to get any answers about. His visit will be extremely helpful, and his assistance a great relief for me!

Dr. Kasongo will be contacting Mapesh to arrange the visit. He will be out of Lesotho August 10-30, so I'm not sure whether he will be able to make the visit between now and the 10th before he leaves or whether he'll want to do it after he gets back.

In the phone call, Dr. Kasongo also mentioned that his team has been working with the Lesotho College of Education to develop digital curriculum for science and English studies. I don't know yet what grades they have the materials prepared for, but we may be able to get some for use in Ketane.

It is still early, but I think that Dr. Kasongo and his team will be very good people to have helping us!
- Janissa

Thursday, July 29, 2010

OLPC XO Laptop User's Guide

There is a 254-page user's guide available for the XO laptop. I have a hard copy (book) of the guide, but it is also available in pdf form. It is very helpful, though mostly basic information. It does explain things like how to access a wi-fi connection to the internet. Unfortunately, most of the information about the actual "activities" (programs) on the XO is just a summary of what the activity does but no real information on how to use the activity itself.

If you would like a copy of this guide, you can read and/or download it yourself from the internet at The file is 4.6 Mb.

- Janissa

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Modifying our Tagline

From all I've read about taglines (the latest buzzword for slogan), they should be short, preferrably 6 words or less, and, they shouldn't use words like 'hope' that are too over-used and not specific enough.

With that in mind, I proposed to the Board that we change our current tagline, "Opening doors of hope with keys to the world" to:

"Providing Keys to the World"
Or, how about
"Children Receive Keys to the World"?

What do you think?


Monday, July 26, 2010

Emails to Fortunate -- Task details

excerpts from email ...

From: Janissa
To: Fortunate
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2010 10:13 AM

Sawubona, Lumela, and Fantastic!

Before we proceed any further, could I ask you to send me two names and contact information for people who can serve as references for you. I hate to have to do this, but after my experience of trusting the person in Durban, and then having him disappear with two of our laptops, I'm afraid I have to check. That said, I am a trusting person at heart, so for now, you seem very sincere, I am going trust you, and I will assume that your references are impeccable. I will continue to work with you unless I hear otherwise. I hope you understand.

Thank you for checking on HIV/AIDS resources.

I have been contacted by a woman, Colleen Smith, from the MindSet organization. That is all running smoothly, so I will handle that for the time being. I may ask you to take over once we get into dealing with logistics.

Yes, please contact Thulani Madondo. I have attached the email I sent to him. It also contains one of the emails that referred him to me.

What we'd like to get from the visit to Kliptown Youth Project are details on setting up a school network and wireless internet system, observation of classes using the XO laptops, exercises and lessons used by 6th and 7th grade students, and possibly an introduction to basic Linux/Sugar programming. We would also like to have time to talk about possible pitfalls in setting up our program and any advice Thulani can give us.

I would like to schedule the visit sometime in November, because I expect to travel to Lesotho around 1 November and stay until early December. However, I'm not sure what dates will be best for the teachers in Ketane, and we need to arrange the trip based on their availability, not mine.

Let me send the Project Manager Tsela "Mapesh" Mapeshoane an email to introduce you. I will let you know when I hear back from him, and then you two can correspond directly to determine what dates they can travel and how long they can be away.

In my original email to Thulani Madondo, I mentioned that we had little or nothing to pay for his services. However, I am going to try to raise money specifically for the visit to the Kliptown, and I will try to raise enough money to pay for his help and training.

Please ask Thulani if he would be willing to let us visit Kliptown, if he can provide us with what we are looking for, what dates he would be available, and what he would charge to train 3-6 adults.

Please cc: me on all emails you send for the project. Also, please keep a log of all phone calls with the phone number, person(s) you spoke to, purpose of the call, and summary of what was talked about. If there is a charge for the call, keep a record of that too.

I really, really appreciate you taking on this work. It will be wonderful to work with you, and it will free up my time to do more fundraising for the project.

Your email smile is infectious. It made me smile too!

Sala kahle,
From: Janissa
To: Fortunate
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2010 10:28 AM

I forgot to send the timetable you asked for. I've attached a pdf I put together recently with tasks and some deadlines for the entire crew. Some of this has changed slightly and I haven't had time to update it, but this will give you a general idea of what everyone is working on.
Deadlines for your work:
  • HIV/AIDS material - No specific deadline. November would be good, but this can be ongoing.
  • Thulani Madondo - Make contact as soon as possible. Once I have secured funding, arrangements will depend on when the trip is scheduled, but hopefully they will need to be completed by late October.
I hope this helps.


Email from Fortunate -- tasks she will take on

From: Fortunate
To: Janissa
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2010 2:58 AM

Hi Janissa and thanks!

I am so excited!!!! There is so much to do! All the suggestions you made sound so exciting and something i would do and enjoy doing! I think the best would be for you to send me some form of schedule that you are working with then i can get to work and set my own sort of timetable for these tasks. Most can be done concurrently so that shouldnt be a problem. In the meantime maybe i can go ahead and make contact with Thulani Madondo? Maybe you could fwd me the email you sent him so that we speak from the same page? I would enjoy making arrangements for this visit.

I would also be very interested in searching for HIV and AIDS material for young children, i already have ideas from some organisations i contacted and worked with last year, this is definitely something i would enjoy doing...So i will get to it and let you know if i come across something interesting.

I do not own a OLPC XO.
I see you are learning a bit of isiXhosa/IsiZulu....Thank you for this opportunity to work with your organisation and change the life of a child somewhere :) I like this, you should see how my face just lights up thinking about this project, i am very excited and so happy to be involved.

Enjoy the rest of your day.


Nohana Primary School 6th Grade Syllabus

I received the Lesotho 6th grade syllabus (1998) sent by Aaron.  This will be very helpful in customizing XO exercises and material to fit with the school curriculum.  Lots of work ahead on that!

- Janissa

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Volunteer to Join Our Team - Fortunate Gunzo

Fortune Gunzo contacted me, referred by the OLPC-ZA list serve message I sent out asking for help.  After several emails of introduction, I received the following:

Hi Janissa and Thanks,

I am not particularly sure of what I could help you with, I am based in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, so something I can do online would be great. I do not mind travelling, if I know about the trips in advance. However, financial resources could be a limiting factor as I am student. Like I said in the previous email, I am a PhD candidate (this is my first year) working in the Education field as my chosen area of development (my interest being in the area of ICT4D). I have a Social Sciences background. I majored in Communication, Sociology and Industrial Psychology in my first degree, moved to ICT in my Honours degree and then ICT education for my Master.

I have some work experience in events management, research and report writing. I have been tutoring since undergrad, in various courses but have been teaching computer literacy for the third year running since coming to Rhodes University. I have worked on small projects in various capacities, including data capturing, conducting literature reviews, data collection etc.

I love working with people and adore children. I currently babysit a lot! and volunteer with projects in Grahamstown that work with school children, one (Galela Amanzi) fundraises for water tanks to provide clean water to marginalised members of the community, the water tanks target schools, pre-schools and community centres. Another project (Imbumba) connects high schools children with NGOs in Grahamstown, for volunteer, internship and training opportunities. Through community engagement programs that I am involved in (in my department), I facilitate, tutor and teach computer literacy mostly to teachers and learners. Last year, I was involved in HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns at several schools using computers (this was related to my Masters research).

I am 30, Zimbabwean and single (no children), I do not speak SeSotho but do speak isiXhosa which is the main language of the Eastern Cape. I have been in the Eastern Cape for 6 years I have made friends with locals which have made it even easier to learn the language.

I am able to manage my time very well, and I am an organised person.

Please feel free to ask me anything else you might want to know that will help you decide how I can be of help.


I wrote back to Fortunate with several suggestions of task she could take on for the project:

From what you've told me, maybe you could help us coordinate with other groups in South Africa that we will be working with. I'd like to arrange a site visit for our teachers from Ketane to the Kliptown Youth Project's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. I recently emailed KYP, but I haven't heard back from them. Would you be willing to make contact with Thulani Madondo at KYP to find out if and how we could set up a visit and some training andfind out how much it would cost? If it's within our budget, then would you be interested in coordinating schedules with the teachers in Ketane and making the travel arrangements?

There are other tasks similar to this that I could use help with, too. One involves working with to get digital and print educational materials. Another involves coordinating with computer, internet, and solar power technicians to get the network and power infrastructure set up in Ketane.

We are interested in designing materials and exercises specifically for the OLPC XO laptops that fit into the Lesotho primary school curriculum. I know you found me through the OLPC-ZA email list. Do you own an OLPC XO laptop? If you do, would you be interested in working with the Ketane teachers to develop educational materials for the XO? If you don't have one, but are interested in this, I might be able to send you one once we have established a good working relationship.

Let me know if any of those sound appealing to you, and I'll sent you more details. We would pay you for the long distance phone calls and other communication expenses.

Unfortunately, we don't have the money to pay you for travel expenses. But as our organization grows, hopefully we'll be able to pay to get you to Ketane in future years ...

... One other thing you might be interested in helping with - We are looking for HIV/AIDS materials specifically for young children ages 6-12, preferably in Sesotho. We can also use materials in English for the 10-12 year-olds. Both digital and print would work if we can digitize the print material. We'd like to get these put on the laptops and/or the school network server.

We'll see what comes of this.  I confess, I would love to have someone in South Africa willing to help with tasks like these.  If it works out, Fortunate could be a godsend.

- Janissa

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Microsoft Team in Maseru offers help to Laptops to Lesotho

There is a Microsoft team working with the Lesotho Ministry of Education and Training on an innovative educational project at Piting Secondary School (about 40 miles from Maseru). They contacted me and said they would like to help our organization.

I am in touch with a Dr. Kalanda Carlos Kasongo. He said he could offer us help and technical assistance. I don't have any more details about what form that will take. We are in the process of trying to arrange a meeting/phone call to discuss it. I will keep you posted as this develops.

In the meantime, you can check out information about the Microsoft School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) project at Piting at Microsoft STIC (pdf).  It's a very interesting concept called a Compujector which uses one computer, a special projector, and multiple "mouses" connected to the computer. The teacher can give a presentation on a wall (no screen needed), and each student can interact with it via their own mouse. The system is portable, fits in a briefcase size container, and is powered by a solar array that is also about briefcase size.

It's based on a Windows system, of course, but we could still make use of it. If we wanted to stick with the XO Linux Sugar system for the teachers to learn and use, it is possible to download a program that emulates the XO system on a Windows computer.
This projector system is something we could use in the other grades until we can distribute individual XO laptops to those students. We could also use it for our training sessions on using the XO's and "traveling" presentations about our program in the villages around the school.

The Microsoft STIC team has partnerships with several organizations that provide educational materials -- MindSet, who I am already working with, LearnThings, and Microsoft Encarta. With Microsoft's help, we might be able to get access to extensive educational resources.

Microsoft STIC is also partnered with two Maseru-based ICT companies, DenverTech and Sha Computers. Through them, we might be able to get technical support and service.

All in all, there is great potential for a partnership with Microsoft. We'll have to wait to see how much we actually get. One thing I don't want is for Microsoft to appropriate our project. I think we should keep this a grassroots, community-based project, with decisions made in Ketane by the people of Ketane. We'll have to stay alert to Microsoft trying to give assistance with strings attached that give them control over how our project proceeds.

This is an exciting development, definitely something to think about.

- Janissa

Friday, July 23, 2010

Support from the Soda Springs (Idaho) Library

I spoke to the librarians in charge of the Soda Springs Library this week to ask about giving a presentation about Laptops to Lesotho at the library and the possibility of using the library to raise funds for our project.  I showed them one of the laptops and told them about our project in Ketane.  They were VERY enthused and thought our organization was a perfect partner for the library. 

They said they would try to get the Friends of the Library involved, though they did suggest I wait until September to give a presentation, because there is less attendance in the summer when school is out and people are vacationing. 

I'll keep you posted.

- Janissa

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Contact with the MindSet Organizaton

"Mindset Network is a non-profit, South African organisation aimed at personal, social and economic development of all people in Africa. Mindset creates, sources and delivers on a mass scale quality educational resources through appropriate mediums to the:
  • primary and secondary school community,
  • health community,
  • vocation and enterprise community, and
  • under-developed and under-resourced communities where upliftment can be achieved through education"
I have made contact with Colleen Smith of MindSet. She is going to take our project information to the MindSet executives to see if they can provide us with some of their educational materials.

MindSet has some great online educational resources, as well as via print, video, and CD.  Hopefully we will be able to receive additional materials from them. 

If you'd like to check out some of the online exercises, go to  These are perfect for primary school students like ours in Ketane.

- Janissa

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

46 refurbished XO laptops waiting to go to Ketane

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eight XO laptops being carried to Maseru

Maureen Powell, of the American International School in Maseru, and her husband have agreed to carry eight of our XO laptops over to Maseru in their carry-on luggage when they fly to Lesotho in early August. We'll have to pay for the domestic postage to Atlanta, but it will save us a bundle on the international shipping. Thanks Maureen!!!

I'll get the laptops charged up today and put them in the mail the next time I go to town, hopefully tomorrow.

And if you know of anyone else flying to Lesotho who might be willing to carry a laptop or two, please ask them to get in touch with me.

- Janissa

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Contact with XO laptop programs in South Africa

I sent an email via the OLPC-ZA list serve asking for help with the XO laptops, and I got an immediate response from Stacey Kertsman. She gave me information about, a group from Marin County, California USA, partnered with a school in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, that is using the XO laptops. She also told me about Thulani Madondo of the Kliptown Youth Project in Johannesburg, which has deployed nearly 300 of the XO laptops.

I will follow up on this and make contact with these two groups to see if they can give us advice and help. I think it would be great if we could have some of our team visit one or both of these sites to observe how they are using the XOs.

Stacey also suggested having their students connect with our Ketane students via eamil. I think that's a fantastic idea.

I'll keep you posted

- Janissa

Stacey Kertsman's reply read:


Perfect timing. eduWeavers has a group coming to South Africa a day from now. They will go up to KZN to a rural school (eSibonisweni) just near Tembe Elephant Park (Kwangwanase is a close town). The school has a deployment of 70+ XOs. We are going to be doing some training on the XOs there. Perhaps some of our team can answer questions for you. No one can make it to you in Lestho this time, but we should connect because it would be great to get the two XO communities in touch with eachother too! Beyond that, I suggest contacting Thulani Madondo in Kliptown, Johannesburg. He works directly with the XOs through his Kliptown Youth Program and can, perhaps, offer you support for a very fair fee. He's fantastic. I've copied him here.

I have also copied Jennifer Getz and Trevor Getz on this email. They are running the trip to KZN. Jennifer's SA cell number is: 082 858 2365. As I said, this trip is a packed one for our group, but perhaps we can support you in some way, even if it is through a phone conversation with the XO team we've brought with us.

Good Luck,

Stacey Kertsman

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Andrew is Back in the States

Andrew Dernovsek, our Treasurer and Co-founder, is back in Colorado after his trip to Uganda as Executive Director of UCE.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Difficulties Communicating with Africa Continue

We're still experiencing problems with email and internet connections at Ketane. Apparently, the GSM modem (USB stick/dongle) Janissa sent isn't working. We're not sure what the problem is yet, so Mapesh, Matlabe, and Aaron can only communicate by email when they travel away from Ketane. We may have to wait until we get an I.T. person on the ground in Ketane to fix the problem.

We also haven't heard from Shaun, in Durban, for several months. He hasn't responded to emails. We're trying to track down the problem there too.

This is very frustrating and slows our progress somewhat, but it's not unexpected in the early stages of a project like this, and it's not insurmountable.

- Janissa

L2L Partners with BLOOM Africa

BLOOM Africa has agreed to raise $3500 (about M25,000) for Laptops to Lesotho!!!

This is great news! The money will pay for 10 XO laptops, one solar panel and storage battery, and shipping to get the laptops to Ketane. There is no guarantee when they will raise the money, but they've got several fundraising events planned for in the next few months, so hopefully we'll see some of the money soon.

You can see more about BLOOM Africa on their website, Their mission is to help Orphans and Vulnerable Children, so one stipulation of their support is that we must work on HIV/AIDS prevention using the laptops. I've officially added several tasks to our work in Ketane so that we can meet that objective, though most of these goals were already on the drawing board.

Things are really starting to come together for us. We have now received or been promised:
  • $3500 for laptops, power, and shipping from BLOOM Africa,
  • $1436 from Friends of Lesotho for network hardware, internet service for 1 year, construction materials, and office supplies,
  • $1500 from FIPE for laptops, plus all expenses for a Mosotho team member to travel to Colorado, USA, for a professional exchange,
  • $2550 from public donations,
  • donated labor and services from the Ketane community,
  • donated software from, and
  • donated grant research subscription from Grant Station.
There is a lot of work still to be done to make this dream come true. I will be writing more on that soon. But for now, LET'S CELEBRATE!

- Janissa

Saturday, June 5, 2010

'Ntate Matlabe is Online!

I received my very first email today from 'Ntate Matlabe Teba, our Project Treasurer and Community Organizer in Ketane. He is the principal at Nohana Primary School and also teaches classes there.

Matlabe had learned basic computer skills from Andrew last year, but he hadn't yet learned how to use email or the internet when Andrew left. He promised, though, that he would learn it, and today I got the evidence that he has indeed fulfilled that promise.

Congratulations, Matlabe. I look forward to many more email exchanges.

- Janissa

Letter of Inquiry Submitted to The Global Fund for Children

I just submitted a Letter of Inquiry to The Global Fund for Children. They look like a good prospect as a funding source as their priorities and criteria match our project very, very closely.

They award grants of $5,000-$20,000 in June and December every year. I probably didn't get our Letter of Inquiry submitted far enough in advance for the June awards, so it may be some months before we hear anything.

As always, keep your fingers crossed.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Help Us Grow >>> Post a Review of Our Organization

Will you help us out by writing a public review of Laptops to Lesotho? Without your input, we're just a faceless group of people and an untested start-up organization.

Because we're new and still in the early stages of our program, now is exactly when we need your help to tell potential donors who we are, how we're doing so far, and what we're capable of. Donors need information from people who know us or have followed our progress, so they can decide whether or not to trust us.

In writing a review, you can talk about how you came to know us,who we are as individuals, about our passion, our work ethic, whether we're honest and trustworthy, whether we're well organized or not, how our team works together, whether we have the skills, knowledge, and perseverance to accomplish our goals, what we've accomplished so far, what we're currently working on, mistakes we've made, our "transparency" or willingness to share information about our organization, why our cause is worth supporting, ... essentially anything and everything related to us and our work.

Even if you only know a little bit about our organization or one person on our team, you can still provide information useful to potential donors.

Please go to Review Laptops to Lesotho and write a review today.

And remember, your comments both good and bad will help us build a better, more effective organization.


- Janissa

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Friends of Lesotho Funding Update

Friends of Lesotho (FOL) has agreed to give us $1436 for network and internet hardware, one year of internet service for the school, and miscellaneous construction and office supplies. We're still waiting for their official Letter of Agreement, but their promise to provide funding, especially for network and internet service, brings us another step closer to our goal.

Please let Friends of Lesotho know you appreciate their support of our project.
Click here to Thank FOL.

Thank You FOL!

- Janissa

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Andrew Headed to Uganda

Andrew is leaving for Uganda tomorrow, for his work as Executive Director of the NGO UCE. He'll be back in the U.S. on July 2. Unfortunately, because we didn't get funding lined up in time, we weren't able to combine his Uganda travel with a work visit to Lesotho and Ketane.

- Janissa

Would You Like to Volunteer?

We have a lot of work that needs to be done and too few hands to do it. Would you be interested in donating a few hours of your time to help out?

Right now, we need help with:
  • fundraising research, things like tracking down leads and getting grant application information
  • monitoring plane ticket prices and keeping an eye out for drops in price or special deals
  • drawing up "contracts" or "letters of agreement" between the students and the school, their parents, and us; between the school and us; and between the community council, the school, and us.
If you're interested in these, or other tasks, email me at

- Janissa

Craig Balcomb offers to help with fundraising research

My brother, Craig, has offered to help with the research to find possible funding sources for the solar power infrastructure we need to run and charge the laptops. This work is extremely time-consuming, tedious, and boring, so his help is GREATLY appreciated!!! Thanks, Craig!

- Janissa

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Lesotho Textbooks

Aaron has promised to check on getting us some Lesotho 6th grade school textbooks so we can start incorporating the curriculum into the laptop training plans. He's going to the school today and will see if the school has any extras which he can mail to us. If not, hopefully he'll be able to find some in Maseru when he goes there in a week or so.

Thanks for looking into this, Aaron!

- Janissa

Number of XO laptops - readjusted

The last time I gave you a count of the number of XO laptops I had acquired, I said we were up to 64. That was counting 11 I had ordered but had not received yet. Unfortunately, the order for the 11 XO laptops fell through, so we are back down to 53. We have enough for all the 6th grade students and teachers, but we still need to get more for the other grades to share.

I'll keep looking for good deals and buying more XOs as I can.

- Janissa

Friday, May 14, 2010

Contest: Write a Google Ad for Laptops to Lesotho

Here's the challenge: Write the best ever Goggle ad for Laptops to Lesotho, something that will make people want to click on the ad and see what we're all about.

Here's the catch: Google has very tight space restrictions, with a limited number of characters per line, including spaces and punctuation.
Title: 25 characters
Text Line 1: 35 characters
Text Line 2: 35 characters

Here's my feeble attempt:
Help African Children
Give hope to Lesotho children thru
better educational opportunities
This ad has gotten people to click on it 28 times out of 15,269 views. Can you do better?

Are you up for a challenge? Sharpen your pencils and give it your best shot. Submit entries as Comments to this message, and if they are approved, we'll post them on Google. The winner will be the one who gets the best percentage of clicks per view.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Discounted Accounting Software and Grant-writing Service via

We purchased the accounting software, QuickBooks Premier Edition 2010, which includes the Nonprofit Edition, via It was donated by Intuit, the company that created QuickBooks, so that we were able to get it for just $45. The going rate on the open market is around $315. Thank you, Intuit! Now Andrew gets to learn how to use it.

We were also able to buy a one-year membership to, normally $599, for just $99. GrantStation is a funding research and grant-writing assistance service. I'm hoping I can use it to find funding for this year if the grant applications we have out now don't get funded, and for next year so we can buy lots more computers, work on the curriculum integration for other grade levels, and do interface translation into Sesotho, among other things. Thanks, GrantStation, for providing this service at a price we can actually afford!

- Janissa

Taking Donations on and Facebook Causes

As of 4 May 2010, we are set up to take donations on and on Facebook Causes. We have links to these donation collection sites on our home page and on this blog.

- Janissa

Status of FOL Funding Request

On May 8th, the Friends of Lesotho Donations Committee said they would be reviewing our funding application sometime this week. If approved by the Committee, it will go to the FOL Board for review at their next meeting, which should be the third Sunday of this month.

- Janissa

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Google gave us $100 of free advertising!

Google has given us $100 worth of free advertising. What this means is that anytime someone does a search on Google using keywords that relate to our project, a link to our homepage will appear on the side under "Sponsored Links." The only time money is deducted from our $100 account balance is if someone actually clicks on the link.

The first ad I wrote read:
Help African Children
Bring hope to Lesotho children thru
better educational opportunities

Now it reads:
Help Lesotho's Children
Donate to improve their education &
open their world with kid's laptops

I'm still not happy with the wording. Unfortunately, there's a very tight word limit for each of the four lines, and the URL that is displayed has to be the same as the actual URL, i.e. I couldn't use "Laptops to Lesotho" for the last line.

In the first hour after I posted the first ad, over 4000 people saw it and 20 actually clicked on our homepage link. Once enough people click on the ad to reach our daily budget limit, the ad stops displaying until the next day. I put a limit of $2.00/day on the ad, about 20 clicks, so we don't blow through the $100 before I figure out how to best attract actual donations with the right keywords and ad text.

Go to and type in "Lesotho charity" or "laptops to lesotho" and you might see our link. (Don't click on it though ... it just takes you to our homepage.)

- Janissa

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

History of Community Support & Project Sucess

from an email from Andrew:

The school was the first of its kind in the entire area of Ketane. It is the only computer school, and it is also run by solar power.

The school, although currently very small, has already begun to improve the education of the children. The computers have helped to improve their Enlish language skills, other subject skills, and given them a great interest in pursuing learning through the computers.

The community has given strong backing to the computer school since its inception. The parents and school committee have begun to build a new building for the computer school donating there time and resources on the weekends. The parents are very excited and even had some of there children attend the school during the break months, and during harvest times when the children would normally be required to work. In addition, the school raised it's own money to purchase an old laptop computer and used money it raised from charging cell phones with the solar panel to buy a printer/copier/scanner.

Various members of the community of Pueblo, Colorado, held fundraisers and donated to the computer school so that the solar equipment and desktop computer could be purchased.

excerpt from an email from Andrew to Janissa about his recent talk with Matlabe

"I finally made it through and talked with Ntate Matlabe today. They have been having a lot of rain, and didn't have signal which is why I couldn't get through. Also, he said the internet at the clinic is out so Mapesh hasn't emailed. Anyway, he was of course very excited about the prospect of coming to the United States. He said he is trying to learn as much as he can" ... "He said he will even take a full course in Maseru in June so that he can learn internet and all that."

"Also he said that they are trying to get a PCV that would come in August."

"[Matlabe and Mapesh] are going to talk about the pros and cons of each person going. I also told them about the laptops that you have for them, and just the other general news. They did say that the computers are all still running and working well."

We are Listed on

It took a few weeks, but we have finally made it into the online database of, the website that lists verified nonprofit organizations. It's a great website for people searching for information about nonprofits, and helps connect nonprofits with donors and funding organizations.

Now that we are on, I can go ahead and get us listed on websites where people can donate to our project, including Facebook Causes and

A huge step forward! Now, spread the word to all your friends, family, co-workers, and anybody you know. We are open for business, and it's time to start donating.

- Janissa

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Our Treasure Highland Computer Project Logo

Laptops to Lesotho Logo

I realize that I have been remiss in adding our logo to this site. A while ago, I posted the logo for the Our Treasure Highland Computer Project that one of the Nohana Primary School students designed, but I never posted the Laptops to Lesotho logo.

I had created a variety of sample logos, but everybody who commented liked the clean simplicity of this one.

It says a lot in one simple symbol -- green color for the XO laptop green, the computer key, a rondavel as home representing the "home" key, and the open white door representing the hope in our slogan "Opening doors to hope with keys to the world."

I've been trying to incorporate the logo in the header for this blog, but haven't figured out how to use the blogger wizard to do that, yet.

- Janissa

Disappointment - No Shipping by Peace Corps via Diplomatic Pouch

I got some disappointing news today from Deepak. The law prohibits the use of the diplomatic pouch to import goods into Lesotho, so we won't be able to get the computers over to Lesotho that way.

We'll have to go back to Plan B and ship them via USPS or DHL, which means I have to find funding for that too.

Another option for getting a few of the laptops to Maseru would be to ask people who are traveling over to carry one or two with them on the plane. We might be able to find PC trainees in the June 2010 CHED group, PC/L staff, and/or Friends of Lesotho associates who are willing and able to help.

We'll get them there one way or another.

- Janissa

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Our Website Redesigned

Sarah has redesigned our website with a new, classier look.

Click here to check it out >>> Laptops to Lesotho

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

64 XO laptops and counting ...

I've just bought 11 more XOs, these for the amazingly low price of $57 each, with free shipping! That brings us up to a grand total of 64.

That gives us:
35 - one for each grade 6 student
10 - one for each teacher
15 - for shared use by the other grades(2-4 students sharing one XO laptop at a time)
2 - for Shaun (I.T. use, fundraising)
1 - for Andrew (fundraising)
1 - for Janissa (fundraising)

Nineteen have been paid for with donations. Now I just need to find money to pay for the rest.

- Janissa

Monday, April 26, 2010

Check Out Our YouTube Videos

Videos from Andrew:

A Nohana Primary School student tells how our laptops will help her become a teacher

A Nohana Primary School student tells of her ambition to be a nurse, and says "Thank You."

Donated XO Laptop Received

We just received an XO laptop donated by Mary Woods of New Jersey. Thanks Mary!!!


We need to switch our home page web host

With Sarah graduating soon, we're going to lose our access to the University of Evansville website we are now using as our home page

Sarah will be checking with the university to see if they will allow us to keep the webpage for a couple months until we can switch over to a different web host. Also, she will check on whether the university will provide an automatic re-direct to our new url, once we have it set up.

In the meantime, we need to consider our options. One feature we definitely want is to be able to post multiple pdf's so we can provide access to all our public organization documents.

It looks like WebHostingPad might be a good choice. It gets high marks in several 'top ten' lists and it only costs about $2 per month.

* Winner of 2010 Budget Hosting Award
* WebHostingPad home page

For more information on choosing a web host:
*'s How Do I Choose a Host?
*'s Learning Center

Top 10 Budget Web Hosts, for under $10:
*' Top 10 List
*'s Top 10 List

Comments and suggestions always appreciated!

- Janissa

Saturday, April 24, 2010

IRS Yearly Reporting Form 990-N ... EASY!

Forms, forms, and more forms ... It's amazing how much paperwork is involved in organizing and running a nonprofit organization! I just filed our yearly IRS form for 2009, required even though we technically only existed for 10 days in 2009. But amazingly, especially for an IRS form, it was EASY!!! It was by far the simplest form I've ever had to fill out for the government ... basically all it asked for was our EIN # (Employer Identification Number), name, address, and then answer two yes/no questions ... that was it! And it was all done online. WOW!

And to think, after the nightmare of filling out the IRS Form 1023, I was actually dreading this form.

- Janissa

Grant writing - next steps & anybody want to help?

Now that I've got the grant application for FOL under my belt, hopefully I'll be able to crank other grant applications out a little (lot) quicker. Next in my sights is Oprah's Angel Network. I've got the application requirements, so now I just need to get writing.

I have a list of a dozen or so other places to submit grant applications. The next step is to get the application requirements for each of those. Then, more research on other organizations and foundations to approach for money.

Anybody want to help with this?

- Janissa

Registration with other websites --,

Last week, I registered Laptops to Lesotho with and Both required verification that L2L was a 501(c)(3) organization, so I had to send them our IRS Letter of Determination. I got a confirmation back but it will take a few days for Laptops to Lesotho to show up on their sites. is a verified list of official tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. Other websites that accept donations for causes, like Facebook Causes and, require that our organization be on the GuideStar list before they will accept us on their websites. As soon as we get into the GuideStar database, we can start accepting donations via Facebook, JustGive, and others. gets tech hardware and software donated by a variety of companies and then distributes them to nonprofits for a small processing fee. Now that Andrew is Treasurer, he will be looking at getting accounting software from TechSoup. We can also get other hardware from them, like a network server and possibly internet access hardware.

- Janissa

L2L bank account set up

I got the bank account set up for L2L, finally. First we had to wait for our official 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, then the bank took a week to set up the account -- they had to do a special investigation because we're a new nonprofit that's going to be using the account for international payments. I have to go back into town next week to sign the papers and deposit the FIPE check. Andrew and I will be signers on the account.

- Janissa

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mapesh promoted

Mapesh has been promoted to principal at a different primary school in Ketane. Fortunately for us, one stipulation of his promotion was that he would continue to work with Our Treasure Highland Computer Project and the computer school.

Congratulations Mapesh! And we're glad you're staying with our project.

- Janissa

Web-conferencing option

We discussed using web-conferencing software to communicate in real time, which would be handy for group discussions especially discussing issues in more detail than is possible in emails. It would also be handy for planning discussions and for training. HOWEVER, we decided that the internet service in Ketane and Idaho is probably too slow to be able to use web-conferencing. Connections with Skype might be an acceptible alternative.

- Janissa

Fundraising: Friends of Lesotho funding application submitted

Today, I submitted an application for funding from Friends of Lesotho. Several of the FOL board members have expressed support for our project, so let's hope that support will translate into real money.

The FOL Donation Committee should meet tomorrow. If they like the application, they will recommend it to the full board, which meets next month.

- Janissa

Communications - Ketane internet, email & phone

Mapesh has been back in touch using the clinic internet connection. Janissa sent a new USB 3G modem to Ketane, but no word yet on whether they got it or whether it works with their existing SIM card.

Aaron and Mapesh have agreed to spend time teaching Matlabe and other teachers how to use email so we can all keep in touch better.

Andrew has been calling Ketane periodically to talk to Matlabe and Mapesh in person.

- Janissa

I.T. News - Shaun explores the XO laptops

In late March, Shaun received the two XO laptops Janissa sent him and has been playing around with them, figuring out how to reload the operating system (so all the XOs are identical when we distribute them and so we can fix some of software problems that may arise), learning how best to hook them up to the internet, and tearing them apart and putting them back together to learn how to make hardware repairs.

Go Shaun! I just hope you can explain all that to the rest of us non-I.T. types.

- Janissa

BIG NEWS: Funding from FIPE

Andrew has been working with FIPE (Foundation for International Professional Exchange). Thanks to Andrew's hard work, they have donated $1500 to put toward the purchase of XO laptops. They have also agreed to provide an exchange for one of our team members to travel to Colorado to meet American teachers and observe their classroom teaching. Andrew is still hammering out the details for the exchange.


- Janissa

BIG NEWS: We have our official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status


We received our official IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status last week, so ...
  • We can now accept donations as tax-deductible contributions.

  • I can start applying for grants from foundations that require 501(c)(3) status to apply.

  • We can now register with online charity lists and donation websites.

  • We are eligible to purchase discounted merchandise from some organizations.

- Janissa

Oops! Time flies ...

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything since late February. A lot has happened in the meantime, and I've been so swamped I haven't been diligent about keeping up with the blog. Big News postings to follow ...

- Janissa

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Contact Updates -- IRS, OLPC, Nohana Primary

* Still no news from the IRS on our tax-exempt status

* Still no word from OLPC on how they might be able to help us

* Still no direct contact with Mapesh, though the internet modem at the school is apparently up and working again. Andrew talked to Matlabe at Nohana Primary School using Skype. I'm going to talk to Andrew tomorrow morning and will post the news he got from Nohana Primary afterwards.

- Janissa

Figuring Shipping & Freight Costs

I've spent the last few days navigating the world of international shipping, looking into how much it's going to cost to get about 50 laptops from Idaho to Lesotho. Every viable option I've checked so far costs $1,000 to $1,200.

I've checked out USPS, UPS, DHL, FedEx, and several smaller international freight companies. I've checked airlines excess baggage. I even looked into adding our cargo to other nonprofit organizations container shipment going to Lesotho. Here's what I've learned -- All the more economical options have some restriction that prevents us from using them.

Our cheapest option will be to ship two laptops at a time using the Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes. This will cost about $990. Insurance would add about $50.

With the shipping cost so high, I'll look into the option of having Peace Corps ship them for us. With PCV Aaron only marginally involved now, I don't know how amenable Peace Corps will be to this, but it's worth a try. If that doesn't work, I'll have to add the shipping costs to one or more grant applications.

Note to self: I need to get over feeling reluctant to ask people and organizations for favors. It's not in my nature, but it is essential to this work.


For those who may follow in our footsteps, here's a bit more information about shipping supplies to Africa:

Before you start, you need to know the weight and dimensions of the items you need to ship.

USPS (US Postal Service) has a less expensive option called Air M-bags IF you're shipping large amounts of printed material. It also has ISAL (International Surface Air Lift) for total shipments >50 pounds, but this only goes from airport to airport, and it doesn't go to Lesotho. For our laptops, the only options are Priority Mail boxes. There are weight and size requirements for all the USPS options, but their website is really easy to use. You get a 5-10% discount by doing the shipping labels online.

UPS offers Air Freight and Ocean Freight. Their Air Freight rates are fairly comparable to USPS's priority mail rates, just a tad higher for our particular needs.

DHL requires you to fill out every possible little detail, including shipping date and billing information, just to get a rate quote. They do offer Air Freight, Surface Freight, and Ocean Freight, but I only looked at Air Freight. I'm still waiting for the quote.

FedEx doesn't deliver to Lesotho, which is a good thing because I'd hate to have to break my boycott of FedEx.

If I took the laptops with me when I fly to Lesotho,Delta's excess baggage would actually have been the cheapest option, except of course that you can't put computers in checked bags. For other supplies though, going to Africa you can take 2 checked bags up to 50 pounds each for free (62" combined dimension), plus you can take up to 8 more bags! If they are all under 50# & 62", the third bag costs $200, the fourth and fifth cost $350 each, and six through ten cost $600 each. If I checked one personal bag and took 4 50# boxes of supplies, it would cost $900, about $140 less than sending them USPS.

The other nonprofits I contacted were sympathetic but either didn't have room, weren't going to be sending a container any time this year, or had rules against including another organization's freight with theirs. If you're going to try this option, plan WELL in advance and check around.


- Janissa

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Updates -- OLPC support; Purchasing XO laptops

Check out comments made on the 4 February 2010 posts for updates:

* more XO laptops purchased (see Big Changes, part 3)

* reply from OLPC on our request for support & training (see "Big Changes, part 2)

Here's an excerpt from the response by OLPC (emphasis is mine):
"... send [your proposal] to me so I can look at ways we can support you. I would not be against you joining an OLPCorps training; however, this year trainings will be in the host countries and be more specific to the program on the ground. I suggest we first look at your proposal and see how we can proceed from there."

They've now got the proposal and promise to review it. We're moving forward ...

- Janissa

New Team Member -- Shaun Ilderton

We have a new member on our team, Shaun Ilderton of Durban, South Africa. Welcome to the team, Shaun!

Shaun will be an excellent asset to our project. He is a family man and is active in community affairs. He works as an I.T. specialist for a Durban company, and he frequently travels to Sani Pass, Lesotho.

Shaun was thinking about starting a project similar to ours when he came across our website. Instead of duplicating our efforts, he offered to join our team. Shaun has jumped in with both feet. He is already investigating what is required to form a nonprofit in South Africa to raise funds for the project.

Because of limited leave, Shaun will serve as our technical adviser from a distance; however, there may be a chance that he will be able to travel to Ketane to assist us on site. Shaun has already provided assistance with information about internet assess and sources of modems.

We look forward to working with Shaun in the coming months.

- Janissa

Nohana Primary School internet still down

Aaron is back in Ketane after several weeks away at Peace Corps training and a little R&R. The internet modem for the school has still not been fixed, but he's hoping to get it repaired on his next trip to Maseru. In the meantime, he is using the Ketane clinic's internet to stay in touch.

Because the school has no access to the internet, and the clinic is about an hour's walk from the school, we haven't heard from Mapesh in a while. Aaron has tried to text message him on his cellphone, but hasn't gotten a response yet. Hope all is well there.

Janissa has contacted Vodacom about buying another modem and having it shipped to Ketane, but hasn't heard back from them yet either. She's also inquired about setting up a monthly internet subscription for the school.

Sometimes it's hard to communicate when you're half a world apart, even in this day and age.

- Janissa

Laptops to Lesotho - tax-exempt status

Janissa finally got the IRS Form 1023, application for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, in the mail yesterday. The application ended up being 16 pages long with 8 pages of attachments and 12 pages of supporting documents >> 36 pages!!! The process supposedly takes 2-3 weeks, so hopefully we should hear back sometime around the end of February or the beginning of March. Here's hoping we get approved!

- Janissa

Fundraising - Training, Presentations

Janissa has signed up for two fundraising seminars:
* signing sponsors in a lean economy (webinar, Feb 16)
* grant writing basics (at Boise Idaho, Feb 23)

She's also started putting together a powerpoint presentation to give for local groups as part of her fundraising effort.

Andrew has given several presentations in Colorado.

- Janissa

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Big Changes, part 3 -- buying XO latops without OLPC

I have started purchasing XO laptops with existing Laptops to Lesotho funds. eBay actually had 16 (!) for sale yesterday. I purchased 4 and have the highest bid, so far, on 9 more. As more of the laptops come up for sale, I'll keep buying them. Hopefully, I'll accumulate several dozen to take to Ketane later this year.

When I purchase the next few XOs, I will have one shipped to Andrew so he can use it in his fundraising efforts. I will also ship one to Shaun for temporary use so he can become familiar with its specs and OS and suggest the best network server etc. If Lineo ever gets in touch, I will consider sending her one for the same reason. If anybody else on the team wants to borrow one, please let me know.

-- Janissa

Big Changes, part 2 -- moving ahead with OLPC

I contacted OLPC by email on 29 January 2010 to see if they might make an exception for our project and give us a grant based on:
  • the size, dedication, and diversity of skills of our team,

  • the amount of pre-planning, preparation, and fundraising we've already done,

  • the existence of the computer school and solar power already in Ketane, and

  • the support and enthusiasm of the students, teachers, and the community.
They saw it will take about a week or so to get a reply because they are so busy with inquiries and applications. If I haven't heard anything by Monday, 8 Febrary, I will send an additional inquiry. I'm going to keep pestering them so they know we are serious and intend to succeed with or without their help.

Depending on the response we get, I will next ask OLPC if 1-2 members of our team can attend the OLPC training even though we aren't grant recipients. We will, of course, have to find our own funding to do this, but I think this training is of critical importance.

-- Janissa

Big Changes -- OLPC grant program changed

On January 27, 2010, we got notice from OLPC that the 2010 application period was open and that they had made dramatic changes to who, when and where the grants would be awarded. They restricted the eligible countries to just a handful that already have existing OLPC programs. Unfortunately, that excluded Lesotho and means our project is no longer eligible to receive an OLPCorps grant and the XO laptops that come with it.

This is a huge disappointment, but we have a strong dedicated team, and I know we will succeed, though it may take us a bit longer than hoped to accomplish our goals.

The people most directly and immediately affected by the change are Sarah and Amy. Without the OLPCorps grant, there is little chance they will be able to travel to Lesotho and help with the deployment this year. Hopefully, they will continue to stay involved and may be able to travel to Ketane to help out in 2011.

-- Janissa

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Aaron's photos

Aaron has posted some really nice photos on his blog. This is just a sample. Check them all out at:

Aaron's blog

-- Janissa

Filing for tax-exempt status with the IRS cont.

I'm still plugging away at the monstrous IRS form required to get our official nonprofit tax-exempt status, but I've made significant progress and hope to have it out in a couple days. In addition to the 14-page form & one 2-page schedule, I've written 7 pages (!) of narrative for the many "If you answered 'Yes', explain in detail" questions.

I've been asked why this is so important. Most grant foundations and donors require an organization to have IRS 501(c)(3) status in order to apply for funding. It's also required in order for us to use websites like Facebook Causes and to collect individual donations online.

-- Janissa

OLPCorps application process updated

Well, OLPCorps Africa still hasn't announced WHEN they will open their application process for 2010, but they have updated the information on their website, changing 2009 to 2010, so we have to assume that we no longer need to worry about IF there will be grants in 2010.

None of the other details of the process have been changed, so maybe we can also assume the program will be very similar to the 2009 program.

-- Janissa