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 ...

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