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 ...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thank You Letter Received from the Lesotho Embassy

I received a very nice letter from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho in Washington DC today thanking me for my work in Lesotho:

"Dear Ms. Balcomb,

On behalf of the Government of Lesotho, we would like to convey our utmost gratitude and appreciation for your awesome contribution rendered to our country geared towards improving standard of living.

Suffice to mention, it is through reputable organizations like [your] contribution to Lesotho that economic growth, poverty reduction, good health and harmonious and strong bonds of relations between nations will be sustained.

We wish you all the best in your future plans, and undoubtedly, promise everylasting support and cooperation.


Christopher Nyaka
Chargé d' Affaires"

It feels wonderful to have this recognition.

- Janissa

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another Request to Film

 From: Ross Frylinck
 Sent: Monday, May 23, 2011


 I am researching topics for a film on poverty for a series called "WHY
 POVERTY" - if successful we will get to make a 10 to 20 minute film
 that will be seen by 250 million people around the world.

You can check out our work here

For info on the STEPS project:

One of our ideas is to document a roll-out of the OLPC program - we
are based in South Africa and I've seen from your website that you are
working on this in Lesotho

If you are interested can you please let me know so that we can start
a discussion

many thanks


Ross Frylinck

Date: Tue, 24 May 2011 21:26:59 -0500
To: Ross Frylinck

Hi Ross,

Thanks for your inquiry. I would be interested in discussing the
possibility of filming our project, but first you should know that we
are not an official OLPC project. Though we use their XO-1 laptops and
adhere to much of their philosophy, we are completely independent of
OLPC. We receive no funding and virtually no support from them.

If, in spite of that, you are still interested, please let me know.


Janissa Balcomb, President
Laptops to Lesotho Inc.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meetings with Supporters in Ohio

I will be back in Ohio the second week of June to visit family, and I've been able to schedule meetings with several supporters of our project in Ohio while I'm there. 
On Wednesday, June 8th, I'm meeting Scott Rosenberg of Wittenberg University whose students will be carrying laptops to Maseru for us the following week.  And, on June 13th, I'll be meeting with William Thomas of BLOOM Africa, one of our largest funders.
I've tried to make contact with the OLPCinci repair center for a visit, but I haven't gotten a response yet.  It's hard to tell from the OLPC Wiki website, but I think the repair center may have moved out of the Cincinnati area.  I hope not.  It would be a real treat to visit.
- Janissa

Received Donated Spare Parts & Laptop from OLPC

I received a package today from Paul Fox of OLPC with a donated XO-1 laptop, four spare batteries, a serial adapter, and some spare parts.  Thank you, Paul!
Now it's time to get my tools out and get to work repairing laptops.
- Janissa

Friday, May 13, 2011

20 XO laptops on their way to Lesotho

Twenty more XO laptops, purchased with funds from a foundation which wishes to remain anonymous, began their journey to Nohana Primary School today.  The XOs will travel via USPS from Idaho to Ohio, shipping paid for by students at Pueblo West High School (Colorado).  In Ohio, Craig Balcomb, one of our volunteers, will deliver them to a group from the Springfield Rotary Club and Wittenberg University.  The group will be traveling to Lesotho later this month to do volunteer work, and they have graciously offered to carry the laptops over for us.  They will deliver them to Deepak Pullanikkatil of Maseru Rotary Club & a Peace Corps staff member.  He will hold them until they can be transported to Ketane.

Thanks to the chain of many helpful hands who are making this possible and saving us a lot of money!

- Janissa

fun email conversation leads to donation

Follow this fun conversation as I search for a cable to make repairs to some XO laptops and end up getting a donation of the cable, a few spare parts, and a laptop from OLPC ...
Date: Wed, May 11, 2011 12:23 pm
Hi, I'm the head of Laptops to Lesotho Inc.  We distribute refurbished G1G1 XO-1 laptops that we purchase on ebay to children in remote villages
in Lesotho, Africa.

I am fairly new to laptop repair, but I'm slowly learning how to refurbish the XOs.  We're preparing for our second deployment, and we've got 5 XO-1s
that won't boot.  I belive they are bricked.  I've worked through the troubleshooting guides, and I am at the point where I need a serial adapter to continue.

Can anyone tell me where I can get one?

From: Paul Fox
To: Janissa
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 11:27 AM
i believe they're now being carried by!/iLoveMyXO

 paul fox (arlington, ma, where it's 53.1 degrees)

From:Janissa Balcomb
Date: Wed, May 11, 2011 3:03 pm

Thanks, Paul. I will give iLoveMyXO a try. Janissa

From: Paul Fox
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:07 PM
hi janissa -- i wasn't sure we had enough to spare here at the office since i knew we were running low, or i would have offered this earlier -- but it seems we've put in a large order for more. i'd be happy to send you a serial adapter if you'd like. (gratis)

i'll need your shipping address if so.

have you written about your lesotho project anywhere i could read about it?


From: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:30 PM
Thanks! That would be wonderful! You can ship it to:
Janissa Balcomb
Laptops to Lesotho Inc.
55 Eagle Creek Rd
Wayan ID 83285-5003
The only place we have written information about our project is on our website (which is in serious need of updating) and our blog, which is sort of a hodge-podge of things as they happen and as I have time to post to it.
At the advice of several funders, I'm working with a few scholarly types to put together a journal article, but right now I have no idea when or where it will be published. I'll try to remember to let you know when it comes out.

 From: Paul Fox
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:00 AM
hi janissa -- i'll get that in the mail. are there any other small spare parts you need that might fit in a small package? we're in the process of moving the OLPC offices, so this is a good time for spares.


From: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:44 AM
Right now, the only parts I could use are a game control button (the large one with the 4 arrows) and a set of covers for the antenna.
Other than that, keyboards, touchpads and batteries are always needed, but I can get those from iLoveMy

From: Paul Fox
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2011 1:41 PM

hi janissa --

okey doke. got you covered. i threw in a laptop too. hope you don't mind. the box should go out today or tomorrow. i even remembered your serial adapter, at the last minute. ;-)


From: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2011 2:43 PM

Like I'm going to say no, I don't want a free laptop!

From: Paul Fox
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2011 2:55 PM
that's the spirit! :-)

paul fox

Solar Power System has been Completed ~ YEA!

From: Ivan Yaholnitsky

Yesterday we installed your solar system at Ketane for charging the laptops.  We installed 4 x 80 watt panels, a 20 amp reg, 1200 watt pure sine wave inverter, and 2 x 260 ah batteries.  DC is 24v, and there is a DB for the AC.  You can later wire up the classroom to have some plugs and lights or just use extension cords for a TV and so on.

I am sorry it took so long, but the road through Phamong is not serving us.  I will follow with an updated invoice, and if you can add something, I will appreciate it. 

Inquiry into Scientific Evaluation of L2L // Replies Received

[Email sent by Janissa to an , Replies follow.]

We are using what we think is a rather unique approach to setting up a computer program in a developing nation, and we would like to find a research partner to do an in-depth, long-term evaluation of the efficacy of our project. 
The first thing we did differently was we took 1½ years to establish a grassroots organization in the local community before we distributed a large number of computers. We started with just two Windows-based computers and two XO-1 laptops. With the help of a Peace Corps Volunteer living in the community, we put two local educators in charge of the project at the very onset. We mentored them, trained them, and made them responsible for all major decisions. From the onset, we let them know that our role was merely as facilitator to get them started and that, within a matter of a few years, they would be solely responsible for the project.

As we guided these two project leaders, we had a series of bench marks, unbeknownst to them, that they had to achieve before we moved to the next step. It wasn't until they reached the point where they had enough computer skills to supervise the project, where they were communicating regularly with us by email, where they had shown a serious sustained commitment to the project, and where the community had shown full investment in the project that we began delivering laptops.

Another thing we are doing is moving at a pace of change that the community can fully absorb without disruption. Our first deployment in 2010 consisted of 50 laptops. Our second deployment with a similar number of laptops will be a full year later.

During the first deployment, we met separately with all the teachers, parents/guardians, students, community leaders, religious leaders, government officials, and local police. After those meetings, we spent ten days helping the project leaders and school staff work out rules and regulations to govern the project. These rules try to address every possible scenario we could foresee and establish a procedure to deal with situations we couldn't foresee. From this, the school staff developed contracts for each student, parent/guardian, and educator to sign in order to participate in the project.

The regulations and contracts clearly define responsibilities, benefits, and penalties for all parties involved. Penalties for violating the contract can be paid in cash or worked off by doing community service. (The English version of the Rules and Regulations, Contracts, and Fine Schedules is posted on our blog at

Originally, we based our project on the OLPC philosophy and guidelines. However, the leaders, educators, and community members felt that one aspect, child ownership, didn't fit well with their situation and the number of laptops we were providing. They changed that to school ownership with a system that allows the children and teachers to check the laptops out like a library book.

As part of this system, a student must earn the right to check out a laptop. First, both the student and their parents/guardian must all sign contracts agreeing to abide by the Rules and Regulations. Then, the student and parents/guardian must learn how to properly care for the laptop and display that knowledge to the satisfaction of the student's classroom teacher. Lastly, the student must earn a set number of points, via a clearly defined point system, based on the student's behavior at school and at home.

During the first deployment we spent three weeks at the end of the school year giving all the teachers at the school and a principal from another school in the area intensive training on how to use the XO laptop, how to charge and repair the laptops, how to teach with laptops in the classroom, and how to develop lessons with the laptops to supplement the curriculum.

Then we left. Three months later, one of the project leaders, who is the school principal, was brought to the U.S. for a professional and cultural exchange. During that time, he had the opportunity to visit a number of schools, observe classes, and talk to principals, teachers, students, and school board members to learn about the U.S. education system. (The trip was paid for by FIPE, the Foundation for International Professional Exchange.) He returned to his school with a new perspective and new ideas.

Laptops to Lesotho volunteers will return to the village in December 2011. In the interim, the school staff is running the program. So far, the laptops are being used several times a week in grades 4-7 and periodically in the lower grades. Most of the teachers are using them in their classrooms, though two are not yet comfortable teaching with them. In order that all the students get a chance to use the laptops, those teachers switch with other teachers for some lessons. A larger solar power system is being installed this month that will enable the teachers to charge more laptops at one time and that will allow them to use the laptops even more frequently in the classroom.

It is too early to tell what significant long-term changes this project will make, but in the short-term it has been very successful. Some of the short-term changes we have documented at this early stage include a 20% increase in enrollment at the school and a drop in chronic absenteeism to nearly zero. Empirical evidence shows a vast improvement in student behavior and an increased rate of improvement in math and English skills.

The project has also gotten the parents/guardians more actively involved in the school and has brought the community more closely together. They have decided to start an annual cultural celebration, a tradition that had been lost prior to this project. They will use the celebration, along with other community activities, to help raise funds for the project.

The school staff selected two dozen students from grades 5-7 to serve as student leaders for the project. The staff has already begun to evaluate schools and school staff members in surrounding villages to determine the next candidate for expansion of the project. They have also decided to spend part of the project funds to attend a grant-writing and fundraising workshop. 
We think that our process could be replicated successfully elsewhere. But, before we get too much farther down the road, we would like to establish a strict scientifically-based hypothesis testing research project to evaluate this technique both in short-term and long-term gains.

If you are interested in helping to set up this evaluation research, or know of someone who might be, please let me know.


----- Original Message -----
From: Stacey Kertsman
To: Temina Madon
Cc: Janissa Balcomb; Wayne Getz
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 1:26 PM
Subject: Fwd: [Research] new subscriber intro - looking for partner to evaluate our program

Just thought I'd forward this along! :) Maybe some student at UCB will be interested.....


---- Original Message ----
Subject: Re: Fwd: [Research] new subscriber intro - looking for partner to evaluate our program
From: Janissa Balcomb

Date: Wed, May 11, 2011 3:04 pm
To:      Stacey Kertsman

Hi Stacey,

Thanks for forwarding this!


----- Original Message -----
From: Edward Cherlin
To: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 9:19 PM
Subject: Re: Re: [Research] new subscriber intro - looking for partner to evaluate our program

On Wed, May 11, 2011 at 23:07, Janissa wrote:
Janissa:  Edward, Thanks for your input.

Edward: A pleasure.

Janissa: My replies follow

Edward: "I would also suggest that you use the Free Software/Open Source approach of publishing all of your materials and letting the community work with them, try to improve them, test them, and so on. The new, in testing, not quite yet public Replacing Textbooks server at Sugar Labs is available for hosting training materials in addition to Free digital > textbook replacements, or Open Education Resources (OER)."

Janissa: We plan to make all our materials public. Anything we create > here in the U.S. for the school will be posted; however, it is very difficult for the teachers in Lesotho to post materials they have created > because there is no affordable internet service available in the area. > When we visit the school later this year, we will make copies of anything they have created and will post it for them.

Edward: I wasn't sufficiently explicit. I mean not only public, but under a Creative Commons or similar license, preferably permitting reuse, improvement, translation, and republication with credit but without having to get explicit permission.

Sneakernet (originally with floppy disks) is an ancient and venerable tradition in the computer community.

Janissa: Will the OER/free digital texbooks be provided in a format that can be downloaded on a flash drive rather than used interactively online?

Edward:  It is our intention to make materials that can be used on an XO, and in Sugar on any other platform, and in many cases that means PDFs and other public document formats that can be used anywhere on anything.

Edward: "Are you familiar with Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka? Your methods are somewhat similar.  Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement"

Janissa: I am not familiar with Sarvodaya, but I will check [it] out.

Edward: "Did you record any of those meetings? Such recordings would be of inestimable value to researchers and to other instructional designers."

Janissa: No, we did not record the meetings other than just taking notes. I think having an audio or video recorder present might have inhibited the process too much. It was hard enough as it was to get the teachers to talk, express opinions, and make decisions. There was A LOT of cajoling involved.

Edward: Understood. Perhaps they will at some point become comfortable with students recording them using XOs, or they can record each other. 

 Edward: "Is your solar power system design public?" 

Janissa: It was designed by the Bethel Community Development and Business Center in Lesotho. I will check with them about making the design public.

Edward:  Thank you. Illinois Institute of Technology is doing another design for schools with XOs in Haiti, and there are others. I encourage organizations doing this to get together and share expertise.

Edward: "I would be very interested to see a comparison of your results with a one-to-one deployment. There are many other experiment designs of interest." 

Janissa: We had originally hoped to have a one-to-one ratio, but financial constraints prevented that. We thought we would still work > toward that goal eventually, but the community has over-ridden us. They would prefer that we expand to other schools rather than try to reach a one-to-one ratio at the school we are currently working with. The situation could definitely make for some interesting comparisons, if the research is set up properly.

Edward: It would require some care to control for a variety of variables. We can discuss that when we get some experiment designers involved. 

Edward: "I don't have the resources of a researcher, and Sugar Labs is not a research group. But as a Sugar Labs Project Manager, I would be very interested in following your research, and suggesting some research directions."

Janissa: I would love to get any suggestions you or others have. I'm completely new to this role and am feeling my way as I go, so any help is greatly appreciated.

Edward: I know some people we should talk to. I'll ask some of them individually. To begin with, we should talk to the Sugar Labs It's-An-Education-Project mailing list. I have copied them on this. --

Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin

Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation. The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.


----- Original Message -----
From: Arthur Attwell
To: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 1:38 AM
Subject: Re: [Olpc-za] looking for someone to do scientific evaluation of OLPC-like project

Hi Janissa

This is fascinating, thank you. Is this info online as a post (I didn't see it on the OLPC Lesotho blog)? I'd love to tweet it at [at] electricbook.

Best wishes

Arthur Attwell
Chief Executive, EBW


----- Original Message -----
From: Janissa Balcomb
To: Arthur Attwell
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 10:51 AM
Subject: Re: [Olpc-za] looking for someone to do scientific evaluation of OLPC-like project

Hi Arthur,

Feel free to tweet or pass this along any which way. I'm going to post it to our blog today.



----- Original Message -----
From: Eckart Zollner
To: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 3:40 AM
Subject: RE: [Olpc-za] looking for someone to do scientific evaluation of OLPC-like project

Hi Janissa,

I have done quite a bit of work in this sector and would be interested to assist in this research project.

Kind regards

Eckart Zollner

Implementation of "Practical advice that works"


----- Original Message -----
From:Janissa Balcomb
To: Eckart Zollner
Cc: Fortunate Gunzo ;
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:16 AM
Subject: Re: [Olpc-za] looking for someone to do scientific evaluation of OLPC-like project

Hi Eckart,

We have a team member in South Africa at Rhodes University who is overseeing this. Her name is Fortunate Gunzo and her email address is . She is putting together a brief for the research. Please feel free to contact her to discuss this. If you could copy me on any emails with her, I'd appreciate it.



----- Original Message -----
From: Henk Boshoff
To: Janissa Balcomb ;
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 4:14 AM
Subject: Research project.

Hi Janissa,

I would like to introduce myself/my business, as I am interested in performing the research project. I am an engineer with a masters degree from the University of Pretoria, South-Africa. Main subjects include systems engineering, engineering management and I have done some research to do a PhD in Technology management, which was put on hold when I started my business S-Curve Technologies cc. I have attached a more formal description of my business to this mail. Some of my published work may be viewed at:

My business has a strong focus on data communications design, and I have a personal passion for NGO work. The following video indicates the work performed by AED Sattelife, for which I designed a data routing system.

I would appreciate further communications regarding this research,

Henk Boshoff.

Henk Boshoff (Founder) S-Curve Technologies cc.


----- Original Message -----
From: Janissa Balcomb
To: Henk Boshoff
Cc: Janissa ;
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:08 AM
Subject: Re: Research project.

Hi Henk,

Thanks for the information. We have a team member in South Africa at Rhodes University who is overseeing this. Her name is Fortunate Gunzo, and her email address is . She's putting together a brief for the research. Please feel free to contact her to discuss this, and if you would, cc me.



On 12 May 2011 03:42, Valerie Taylor wrote:

Hi Phil

This came in a post to the One Laptop Per Child group. How are they doing in empowering the community, based on information provided?

All the best, ..


----- Original Message -----
From: Phil Bartle
To: Valerie Taylor
Cc: Jonathon Tardif
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 4:51 AM
Subject: Re: Community empowerment

Thanks, Valerie
From what I read in their description they are going about it in a right way (not that there is only ONE right way). I would have a few questions, but no surprise they are not answered in the blog.

Warm Regards,

Community Empowerment:


On Thu, May 12, 2011 at 12:27 PM,
Janissa Balcomb wrote:

 Hi Phil & Valerie,

I welcome your input and suggestions for our Laptops to Lesotho project.  I'm completely new at this; my background is not in community organization or even anything close.

What questions didn't I answer? We are a very small, all-volunteer group,
and I confess that I have to wear many unfamiliar hats while trying to
juggle several other jobs. I often don't have time to keep the blog current
with full details. And because of poor connectivity, information from the
village is often delayed. But, I will try to answer any questions you have.

It's kind of a long story how I got into this, but essentially the community
contacted me and asked for help. I'm feeling my way as I go, so I
appreciate all the help I can get.



----- Original Message -----
From: Valerie Taylor
To: Janissa Balcomb
Cc: Phil Bartle ; Jonathon Tardif
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:13 PM
Subject: Re: Community empowerment

Hi Janissa

Phil and a group of wonderful volunteers have put together a users
guide for community empowerment.

There are many good ideas presented in a very accessible manner. And
if English is not the first language for community facilitators,
translations into other languages are available as well.

We really appreciated that you shared your work and look forward to
hearing more.

All the best


----- Original Message -----
From: Janissa Balcomb
To: Valerie Taylor
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:26 PM
Subject: Re: Community empowerment

Thanks! I will check it out. Janissa


----- Original Message -----
From: Sarah Howard
To: Janissa Balcomb
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 5:54 PM
Subject: laptops to Lesotho

Hi Janissa,

I just read your post in the OLPC digest. I thought I could be of some help. My name is Dr Sarah Howard and I'm a lecturer at the University of Wollongong in Australia, formerly an high school art teacher from San Francisco. You can find more about me at these two links:

2) UOW faculty page:

You'll see in my bios that I run a three-year (2010-2012) state-wide one-to-one laptop evaluation in New South Wales. It's one of the largest ever conducted, on this kind of program. I also work with researchers at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University in Grahamstown, looking at ICT and laptop use in South African schools. I have an particular interest in the Teacher Laptop Initiative roll-out in South Africa. I was over there in November 2010 doing a data collection, currently analyzing the results. I am also working with OLPC Australia on their first program evaluation.

All this said, I'm very interested to expand my work in South Africa and continue to look at laptop roll-out strategies in different contexts. Possibly we could skype (sahoward.uow) to talk a bit more about the work you are doing? I leave for France and the UK, for research, in a few weeks. If you are interested in chatting, it would be good to talk before I leave on May 29th.

I look forward to hearing more about your program.

Thanks so much,

Dr Sarah K. Howard
Lecturer in Education
ICT Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Faculty of Education, 67.309
University of Wollongong
Wollongong, 2522 NSW


----- Original Message -----
From: Janissa Balcomb
To: Sarah Howard
Cc: Fortunate  Gunzo 
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 6:34 PM
Subject: Re: laptops to Lesotho

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your interest in our program. I've forwarded your email to a member of our team, Fortunate Gunzo, who is overseeing the evaluation process for us. Maybe you know her? She is at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Her email address is          .

Thanks again,

Fw: Community empowerment - email from Valerie Taylor

----- Original Message -----
From: Valerie Taylor
To:Janissa Balcomb
Cc:Phil Bartle, Jonathon Tardif
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:13 PM
Subject: Re: Community empowerment

Hi Janissa

Phil and a group of wonderful volunteers have put together a users guide for community empowerment.

There are many good ideas presented in a very accessible manner. And if English is not the first language for community facilitators,
translations into other languages are available as well.

We really appreciated that you shared your work and look forward to
hearing more.

All the best

On Thu, May 12, 2011 at 12:27 PM, Janissa Balcomb
<> wrote:
> Hi Phil & Valerie,
> I welcome your input and suggestions for our Laptops to Lesotho project.  I'm completely new at
this; my background is not in community organization
 or even anything close.
> What questions didn't I answer? We are a very small, all-volunteer group, and I confess that I have to wear many unfamiliar hats while trying to juggle several other jobs. I often don't have time to keep the blog current with full details. And because of poor connectivity, information from the village is often delayed. But, I will try to answer any questions you have.
> It's kind of a long story how I got into this, but essentially the community contacted me and asked for help. I'm feeling my way as I go, so I appreciate all the help I can get.
> Thanks,
> Janissa

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ketane update from Delia

... ... So I will be sending the most recent photos I have this week ... I have some of Matlabe's presentation as well as the computer set up and I do believe I have some burglar bar photos. ... I will try and send these photos asap.
As far as a points system, I can tell you as of my departure from Ketane on Thursday there is still no points system.  I had reminded the teachers this needed to be done but as of now it has not.  I am simply reminding them because this is their project. I have told them I would help them but I want them to take the initiative and show motivation in this next step of the project.  So as of now students are not even close to taking home the laptops.
Here are a few other updates: 
I know Ntate Matlabe was able to get an internet phone ...
Also as you may know there have been some teaching staff changes.  Mapesh has returned as of last week, he is now taking over standard 7 since Mochochoko is not returning this year as far as I know.  And Me Mahlafane was dismissed from Nohana Primary.  Currently the setup is:
Standard 1 - Me Lebakae
Standard 2 - Me Makhotso
Standard 3-  Ntate Likhetse
Standard 4 - Ntate Stabo
Standard 5 - Me Mohale
Standard 6 - Me Locadia
Standard 7 - Ntate Mapesh  
As far as the HIV materials for the XO's I have not been able to get the sarah books on flash drive.  I asked the HIV coordinator at PC about it just yesterday and she currently doesnt have that resource.  She said she would try but she couldn't promise anything.. Since I'm at PC South Africa ... I can see if they have that resource for me.  If they do I will get it and bring it back to Ketane when I return.
I should have regular access to email so if there is anything I think of I will keep you updated.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pueblo West High School donation

Students at Pueblo West High School in Colorado have raised $677.16 to help the children at Nohana Primary School.  Now, we are waiting to hear from the project leaders, Matlabe Teba and Mapesh Mapeshoane, how they want to use the money.
A huge Thank You to the students for their hard work and generosity!
- Janissa

Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 Grantwriting and Fundraising Workshop Plans

L2L is working with an anonymous foundation to set up a grant-writing and fundraising workshop for Matlabe, Mapesh, and any of the Nohana Primary School teachers who are interested in attending.  A representative of the foundation is investigating who is available to provide the training.  Ideally, we're looking for someone willing to put on the workshop in Lesotho.
Maseru Rotary Club is providing the funding for the Nohana Primary School staff to attend, and the anonymous foundation will pay part of the cost for the Lesotho educators they work with to attend the workshop. 
The tentative plan is to hold the training during a school holiday in September, but that will be up to Matlabe and the teachers to decide. I will keep you posted when we know more.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Funding - Status Report

Anonymous Foundation: I have nearly finished purchasing XO laptops funded by a foundation which wishes to remain anonymouse. I've bought 26 XOs so far and have enough left to buy 1-2 more. Five of those have already gone to Lesotho with Matlabe.
XO Donations: I've also received one donated XO laptop, and two other people have said they will be donating their XO laptops to us.
BLOOM Africa: William Thomas of BLOOM Africa told me they now have $2750 for us, the balance left from their pledge of $3500 made in 2010. He will be sending a check soon.  The money from BLOOM Africa is specifically designated for 10 XO laptops, shipping, and solar power.
Friends of Lesotho: Some of FOL's funding in 2010 was designated for setting up internet access. Because we were unable to accomplish this, as originally planned, they have given us permission to use the funds to cover other costs we incurred during the last trip. Essentially, that means I can get reimbursed for some of my out-of-pocket expenses for the electrical system and the school can get reimbursed for part of the cost of the burglar bars.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Solar Power System Installation: set for May 8-15

Hi Janissa
We are coming to do your installation the week of May 8-15.  We just
got the stuff and are hampered by the poor condition of the road and
have a backlog of unfinished biz because of poor logistics.  I will
keep you informed.  Thanks for the report and good work.  Ivan

New Volunteer - Paula Burgin

First, Id like to welcome Paula Burgin of Soda Springs, Idaho, to our team.  She's an experienced fundraiser who claims she actually enjoys doing it.  That, of course, is music to my ears, because I hate fundraising.  Paula hopes to travel with me to Lesotho in 2012 to help with training and to learn more about Lesotho.  I look forward to working with her and hope the rest of the team will get a chance to meet her at some point.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

from Matlabe - An African thanks, Pueblo

 The Pueblo Chieftain Sunday, April 10, 2011


An African thanks, Pueblo.


I am a school principal in a small village in Lesotho. My knowledge of the world was very limited and I knew not what to expect in America, where I came for the first time outside my native southern Africa.


As I leave Pueblo and the United States I have a strong desire to speak my gratitude to the people of this community for the wonderful experiences you have given me during two weeks among you.


I was astonished sitting in an automobile through an automatic car wash, attending a church service where the songs were projected on a screen, having my teeth examined and cleaned in a dentist's office. I had never imagined these things, and many others.


But the most powerful impression is the people. From the very first I was welcomed as a friend and I have not been treated in any other way by anyone during this visit. Your generous hospitality and many courtesies to a foreigner and stranger in your midst speak eloquently of the United States as a nation of kind, caring people.


Now Pueblo will be known to the residents of a small African village. Thank you.


Matlabe Teba

Ketane, Lesotho, Africa

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Please Ignore the Post about UN Funding - It was SPAM!

Please ignore the previous post that supposedly came from me about funding from the UN for $500,000. That was spam. If you got an email from this blog with that message, please delete it and PLEASE DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS OR SEND THEM ANY INFORMATION.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A letter from FIPE's Jack Wilson to Matlabe Teba

Dear friend Matlabe,

A famous 19th century Scottish poet, novelist, and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “Life is a series of farewells”. That presumes, of course, that life is also a series of “Hellos”.
Saying “Hello” to you two weeks ago was a pleasure, and your presence in our midst and in my company has been a source of joy the entire time. Many people have told me how favorably they were impressed by your smile, cordial demeanor, and warm personality. You have graced our community and markedly enhanced the favor in which FIPE is held.
You return to your home and your people knowing that some Americans who had never heard of Lesotho now feel they have a friend there. Bettie, Sherrie, and Hamp join me in gratitude for the great gift you have given us. Please know you will remain forever in our hearts and memories.
In gratitude and friendship,


W. Jackson Wilson

from the President Emeritus

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Re: FW: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

Hi Janissa

This is very encouraging and hope that we can get a contact off the lists she has given you. I will also hold and wait to hear what you finalise with Cecily.




"Education is the best vaccination for HIV/AIDS"

Part 2 of the report "Treasure of Laptops to Lesotho" written by Nohana Primary School Principal Matlabe Teba:

"Nohana Primary School is engaged in a campaign against HIV and AIDS. Lesotho has infection rate of 23%. In rural and poor societies like in Ketane the case is worse. We have decided to formulate a policy whose main objectives are:

- to reduce stigma
- promote self awareness amongst pupils and community
- encourage the regular use of ARV's.

Our motto is "Education is the best vaccination for HIV/AIDS."

We have more than hundred orphans in our school.  Many of these orphans are infected when some are only affected.  Some are still uner medication.  This is the situation that made us engage serious in campaign against HIV/AIDS."


Laptops to Lesotho is trying to help Matlabe Teba and the Nohana Primary School combat HIV/AIDS in Ketane by providing educational materials about HIV/AIDS as well as improving the general education of all students in the area.

Treasure of Laptops to Lesotho by Matlabe Teba

Excerpts from a report written by the principal of Nohana Primary School, Matlabe Teba:

Nohana Primary School is situated in Ketane in Mohale's Hoek district of Lesotho. Ketane is one of the most mountainous regions in Lesotho and also in Africa.

Majority of people staying in this region earn their living by working in the fields and by raising animals.

Because of its geographical features, means of communication and transport are very difficult. For instance, more than four-fifths of its villages are not accessible. The whole region is not connected to the internet, except only one government clinic.
In general, this is a technologically underdeveloped place, e.g. there are some villages whereby residents know nothing about cellular phone. Some residents have never seen and watched a television in their life. In some villages, majority of villagers have never seen a car. The same applies to the computers. This is the place where Nohana Primary School is located.
It is really true that these laptops are a treasure to our local community. We give great thanks to everyone who contributed to make this precious project success.

Teachers were equipped with basic computer skills.

Teachers started to train 24 student group leaders.

Teachers mobilised the pupils, community, local stakeholders and educational authorities.

Two teachers went to a one day training at Kliptown Youth Centre and Lilydale Primary School in Soweto.

Project leaders briefed Maseru Rotary Club members about our project.

All Nohana Primary School teachers got a three week school based training. My colleagues highly appreciated it. It encompasses laptop repairing, shelves fixing for computers, wiring and running generator. We got chance for practical activities that served as preliminary implementation of the project.

We formulated the regulations and contracts for teachers and parents. All these people would abide by their terms. This will guide us on how this mega treasure should be handled.

The next quantum leap was to make a work plan and schedule that classes 4, 5, 6, and 7 will be our target. Each class will have practical lesson twice a week. They can feel the presence of this treasure of Laptops to Lesotho, and also promote the sense of ownership.

We registered all 50 of these computers. This helps us to know and trace their movements.

We fixed burglar proofs in three rooms; one for computer lessons, another one for computer storage and charging and the last one for the generator.

To raise funds for the project, we have decided that our school's solar panel be used to charge cell phones and people pay as little as 30 cents per phone. This is used to buy fuel for the generator. We have also planned to have a concert once a session.


Our school's roll has increased from 314 to 374 pupils. Implementation of this computer projects has reduced the rate of absenteeism. It has also improved the learners behavior as they now compete to score points about good things they do at school so they can take laptop home. Pupils are excited and motivated. They are grasping very quickly. Some community members have also shown interest in learning. We are trying to fix a plan to accommodate them in the computer reaching learning programme.


My school gives great thanks to the people and companies that have been so instrumental from the planning up to the launching of this project.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FW: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

The following is an email conversation I'm having with a representative of a foundation funding our project which wishes to remain anonymous.  The emails are about possible grant-writing training for the teachers at Nohana Primary School.  Right now, we're looking into bringing a trainer to Lesotho so more people can participate in the training.  The foundation rep is interested in having principals at schools in the Mt. Moorosi/Quthing area take the training as well and might be able to help with funding for the training. 

This is all in the early stages of planning.  I just wanted to give you a heads-up of what we're working on.


From: Janissa
Sent: 28 March 2011 05:57 PM
To: foundation rep
Subject: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

Hi Cecily,

I have a quick question for you.  We've gotten a grant from the Maseru Rotary Club for M10,000, and the teachers have decided they want to use at least part of it to send two of them to a seminar in grant-writing training.  Do you know any place in South Africa where they could get this kind of training?  I've heard of a woman in Durban who does this, but I've lost her contact information.  Appreciate any help you can give me on this.

All my best,

Janissa Balcomb, President
Laptops to Lesotho

From: foundation
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:05 AM
To: 'Janissa'
Subject: RE: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

Dear Janissa

I will ask around but wonder if your best bet wouldn’t be to get someone to come to Lesotho so that this workshop can benefit more people.

Personally I have found that projects go to grant writing seminars etc and get all excited but it doesn’t produce much. It is – as  you know – a long, patient time consuming slog which requires lots of follow up, nurturing and top class communication skills. Too often people think if they write a few letters they’ll get money and when they get the first batch of rejections they lose hope. Far better to create a supportive team of people in situ than to expend time and energy on one or two.

Anyway, I will get back to you.

Meantime I am off to Lesotho tomorrow – meeting principals in Quthing/Mount Moorosi area. Do you have any idea yet of your dates for a possible next visit?

Best wishes


From: Janissa
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 1:09 PM
To: foundation
Subject: RE: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

Hi Cecily,

That's a good point.  I'll look into having the training at Ketane.  We do plan to offer continued long-term support as they learn how to write grants.  Delia has some experience and has offered to help.  And our treasurer, Andrew Dernovsek, who is currently in graduate school, has taken two courses in grant-writing and fundraising.  He speaks fluent Sesotho and talks to Matlabe on the phone fairly regularly, so he'll be able to offer lots of support.

I am planning to be in Lesotho in November and December again.  We've decided to do another intensive computer training course for the teachers in the 2-3 weeks after school ends. 

After that, I will be going with my aunt to Mozambique to visit my uncle's family, probably the week before Christmas.  I would like to visit the teachers at the eSibonisweni school then, if possible, but don't know about the logistics.  You've lived in that area, haven't you?  Do you have any advice?

Thanks for your help!

From: foundation
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:15 AM
To: 'Janissa'
Subject: RE: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

this is probably the best known training agency for grant making. They have a pretty good reputation but I don’t know what their costs are. I am also checking Durban contacts.

It might be an idea to look at hosting a Grant writing workshop in Lesotho (closer to Ketane – we use Orange River Hotel in Quthing for a lot of our meetings) and, if so, I have a few folk I’d like to send along as well and could consider contributing to the costs.

From: Janissa
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 1:21 PM
To: 'foundation'
Subject: RE: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

"The more, the merrier."  That would be FANTASTIC!

From: foundation
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:23 AM
To: 'Janissa'
Subject: RE: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

bombarding you now! This is also a useful link but don’t send your folk to this course in May – it’s for professional fund raisers with solid experience already. What may be useful is the list of people registered with SAIF. I do know of Di Milford in Pietermaritzburg and she may be one person to contact and see is she’s willing/able to help. I could liaise with her on your behalf if you do decide you want to get someone to come to Lesotho instead.

Alternatively if you want her to set up something for your people in PMB you can deal directly with her.

Hold off until I find out more about the Durban service providers as well so you have as wide a choice as possible. I am also getting recommendations from local NGOs who have used consultants themselves. It can be a jolly expensive business.

From: Janissa
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 1:21 PM
To: foundation
Subject: RE: question about grant-writing training in South Africa

If you are willing to contact Di Milford to see if she would be willing to go to Lesotho for training, that would be wonderful.  I will hold off contacting anyone until I hear back from you.  

If it would be easier for her, or other trainers, to travel to Maseru, we could hold it there.  It's just as easy for our teachers to travel to Quthing as Maseru.

We do have R10,000 from the Maseru Rotary Club we can use for the training.

Reply to Breaking News!

Dear 1-3rd grades,

Let him back! (command) I need him here on the 3rd April. Or else I'll be in the USA for him ASAP.

Nohana Secondary School

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ketane Solar Power System Update

From: Ivan Yaholnitsky
Sent: Monday, March 28, 2011 9:49 PM
To: Janissa
Subject: Ketane System

Hi Janissa
Our supplier sold out his deep cycle batteries and we are waiting for fresh
supply. I will be getting all your stuff in a couple of weeks, and then
going to Ketane for the installation. Are you around? Who is responsible
there and what are their contact details. With Easter, we will probably do
the installation after Easter. Sorry for the delay. Ivan


-----Original Message-----
From: Janissa
Sent: Monday, March 28, 2011 10:24 PM
To: 'Ivan Yaholnitsky'
Subject: RE: Ketane System

Hi Ivan,

That sounds fine. I won't be there. The best contact in Ketane is Matlabe
Teba, the principal. He's in the States right now but will be back in
Ketane in a week or so. If he's not available, talk to Delia Helie. She's
a Peace Corps Volunteer who lives next to the school.


BREAKING NEWS ! Lesotho school principal Matlabe Teba will not be returning to Africa.

From: Jack Wilson
Sent: Monday, March 28, 2011 12:52 PM


BREAKING NEWS! Lesotho school principal Matlabe Teba has been captured and is being held by more than 100 1st-3rd grade students and their teachers at Columbian elementary school in Pueblo, Colorado. The captors are refusing to release him to Dr. Jack Wilson of FIPE, declaring that they are unwilling to relinquish such a treasure in their midst. One of the teacher/hosts, Mrs. Kathy Plath, took it upon herself to reschedule an appointment Wilson had made for Matlabe for a pro-bono dental examination and prophylactic cleaning so his time at the school would not be interrupted. Mrs. Plath, who once lived in Lesotho, intends to sequester the African teacher/administrator in her home and accompany him tomorrow to Pueblo's new International Magnet School. FIPE officials in the area are negotiating to secure Mr. Teba's release at least temporarily so he can keep his appointment to address the Pueblo Kiwanis Club on Wednesday. Further developments will be announced as they occur.


W.Jackson Wilson,R.Ed.D.