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, March 6, 2011

Lots Going On - Highlights for January & February 2011

I must apologize to all of you who have checked our blog in the last two months only to find that there haven't been any new posts since late December. It gives the appearance that nothing has been happening, when, in actual fact, we have been making good, steady progress. I just haven't been keeping up with posting the latest news because of other demands on my time. I'm sorry.

I'll try to catch you up on all our 2011 news.  Here are the highlights:

  • We received a record number and record amount of public donations in December.
  • We finished the paperwork for an anonymous foundation grant and received R50,000 ($7500) for expanding the solar power system at Nohana Primary School and for more computers. 
    • We have started buying the XO laptops on ebay as they become available. 
    • Ivan Yaholnitsky, of the Bethel Business and Community Development Centre, is currently away, but he will handle the power system expansion on his return.
  • The Maseru Rotary Club has raised the M10,000 ($1500) they pledged. The teachers in Ketane have been meeting to decide how to use the funding.
  • Craig has made contact with Steve Neely and Andrew Bell of the Springfield, Ohio, Rotary Club.  It sounds like the Club is very interested in working with us.  They will be contacting the Maseru Rotary Club on ways we can all work together.
  • BLOOM Africa paid their first installment of $750 on the $3500 they pledged in 2010.
  • We acquired Microsoft Office software for our U.S. and Ketane computers, donated by Microsoft via
  • We received a refund from the South African Revenue Service for the customs fees I paid for taking the XO laptops into South Africa on the way to Lesotho.  With all the bureaucracy, red tape, exchange and transfer fees, we only got $525 back out of the $625 paid.
  • Google AdWords gave us $100 worth of free advertising. I ran ads from February 20-28. I only used about $15 of the total because I misunderstood the terms of the offer, which stated that it ended February 28. I thought that meant we had to start running ads before February 28th, when they apparently meant we had to use the entire $100 before the 28th. The ads did generate some traffic to our website.
  • The teachers at Nohana Primary returned in January from the winter break and have started using the computers in their classrooms. 
    • Delia Helie took some great photos of the students using the XO laptops.  These will be posted very soon on our website. 
    • I am currently working on making a calendar for the school using these photos and ones Craig took in December.
  • Aaron Laufman-Walker had to terminate his Peace Corps service early, so he is no longer available in Ketane to help us out.  We thank him for his help and wish him good luck in his future endeavors, wherever they may lead him.
  • A Vodacom technician traveled to Ketane to set up the internet service at the school, but discovered that there was no internet signal there. 
    • We are baffled why this was the case because there used to be a signal there, and people are still able to access the internet via their cell phones there.
    • Vodacom says the only way they can provide internet is if we pay for a microwave link which would cost M50,000 ($7500).
    • We will be looking into other alternative for internet access, including satellite service.
  • The power cord and adapter have made it to Lesotho and are on their way to Ketane as I write.  We hope this will fix the problem with the printer.
  • The road to Ketane has been in very bad condition because of heavy rains, making travel to and from the school very difficult.
  • Plans have been made for 'N'tate Matlabe Teba to travel from Ketane to Pueblo, Colorado, in the latter half of March for a professional and cultural exchange.  This trip is being paid for by FIPE, the Foundation for International Professional Exchange.
    • Matlabe will be staying with Andrew and Andrew's parents.
    • I will be joining Matlabe and Andrew for several days in Colorado.  Our Secretary, Sarah Balcomb Gardner, will be joining us by phone for our Annual Board Meeting on the morning of Saturday, March 19th.
    • We will be working on plans for the coming year,  including fundraising, spending priorities, training, expansion, lesson plan and software development, and student money-making projects.
  • Craig and Sarah have updated our website and posted a number of photos from our trip.
  • I gave a presentation to the Grays Lake, Idaho, community about the project.  There was good attendance, and it was very well received.  It generated $200 in donations thus far, with more promised to come.  The community is also making clothing for the children of Ketane.
  • I will be giving a talk at the Friends of Lesotho (FOL) Annual Meeting on March 12th.  The meeting is open to the public.  It begins at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.  Check the FOL website for details.
  • I wrote a short article about our project that will appear in the Friends of Lesotho 2010 Annual Report, which comes out this month.
  • I have started plans for a presentation in Soda Springs, Idaho, in April. A specific date hasn't been set yet.
  • Fortunate has been in contact with Andrew Stinson and Stephanie Bonnes in the U.S.  They started an OLPC project at two day-care centers in Grahamstown, South Africa.
  • Fortunate and I have been discussing ways she could facilitate an evaluation of our project with the help of students at Rhodes University.
  • I was contacted by Russell Fox, a South African farmer living on the Lesotho border near Peka and Rantuba.  He was looking for advice and help setting up a program similar to ours for communities in Lesotho near his farm.
  • I was contacted by Bonnie Nishihara in California for advice on training teachers and students from eSibonisweni school in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in the use of the XO laptops.  The KZN teachers and students would be traveling to California for two weeks.
  • I have been in contact with Malefetsane Nketekete of SchoolNet (Lesotho) - Camara on possible training for our teachers at their site.
  • I have been in touch with Ronel Smith of Digital Doorways in South Africa about how to set up a "public" computer in Ketane.
  • I have been in contact with Chris Leonard about translating the XO laptop interface into Sesotho.
- Janissa