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, September 14, 2012

Email Communications with Lesotho have VASTLY Improved. Yea!

Matlabe juggling 2 cell phones in Maseru
Matlabe juggling two cell phones
at the bus station in Maseru
We've been working to improve email communications between the U.S. and the remote Ketane region of Lesotho since we started, but we kept running into huge obstacles.  The biggest problem has been that there are no internet signals in the area and the cell phone signals there are too weak to connect to with a computer. 

Last year, I bought a cell phone for our project leader, Matlabe Teba, that could be used to access the internet and send and receive emails, using those weak cell phone signals.  I used the phone almost daily while I was in the village to check my email. 

Unfortunately, I hogged the phone and didn't spend much time working with Matlabe to teach him how to use it.  My bad.  After I left, he ran into problems with the phone and didn't know how to resolve them.

He sought help from several people, but nobody seemed able to fix it, so we continued to have no email contact directly from the school.  To make matters worse, the clinic where he used to go to get on the internet, which is a long hike away, lost its signal.  The only way he could email us was to make a 2-day trek to an internet cafe in the district capitol, Mohale's Hoek, or Lesotho's capital, Maseru.

We had about given up hope of ever establishing good email contact when, a few weeks back, we started getting multiple emails from Matlabe that were being sent from the school and his home. 

I don't know what happened, but somehow he mastered the cell phone technology. 

It has been wonderful to carry on real-time back-and-forth conversations with him via email, to get timely answers to questions, and to be able to relay important information back and forth.   This is a huge breakthrough and is going to make our work so much easier now.

Better still, Matlabe seems to really enjoy these exchanges.  He has been sending multiple emails to me and to several of our volunteers.  He has even started teaching Sesotho via email to one of our directors. 

You should see the REALLY REALLY BIG SMILE on my face!

- Janissa



  1. it's important to create documentation especially when you are working with people who are not experts. They need to be able to read this document when you are not there. So have them follow the steps with you while you are there and then correct it until they can follow it.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I left documentation, but it got lost. I normally write out very detailed instructions for everything. And I had planned to spend more time going over the email procedures with Matlabe before I left, but something unexpected cropped up our last few days that had to be dealt with, and we just ran out of time.

  3. I forgot to mention that our project leaders Matlabe and Mapesh were the ones who taught ME how to use a cell phone. (In this photo of Matlabe, he is transferring cell phone numbers from one phone to the other.) He's very adept with a regular cell phone, and he seemed to pick up the cell phone internet use fairly quickly. I think something happened with the project phone that it didn't work for a while. He had very technologically savvy people look at it & they couldn't get it to work. By the time it got fixed months later, Matlabe forgot how to use it, and in the meantime, the documentation had gotten misplaced.

    It's interesting that we have had great luck, with everything seeming to fall into place just when we need it on this project, except for internet and the network server. There's a gremlin (tokolosi) at work in that part of the project because even experts we've consulted and had visit the site have been flummoxed by problems they haven't been able to fix.

    But all is well now, at least as far as email. And the very best part of all of this is that Matlabe resolved the problem completely on his own. That's exactly what we want to happen. And, this will hopefully build his self-confidence so he knows he can resolve other project issues whenevery they arise.

  4. You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.

    - Rojer Fredrick
    [website URL removed]


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