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 ...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 Trip Report #1: Volunteer "Mules"

This post is the start of what will hopefully be a whole series of posts to take you through our trip to Lesotho from late December 2012 to mid-February 2013.  Hopefully, some of it will be entertaining and some informative, but my main purpose is to "get it on paper" before I forget, so we have a permanent record of what happened, what worked, and what didn't.  I've tried to keep a journal on these trips, but that usually only lasts a few days before I just don't have the time to bother with it anymore.

As I noted in an earlier post, we had nine outside volunteers, including myself, participate in this trip.  The five of us who came directly from the U.S. to Lesotho got to act as "mules," carrying laptops and other project supplies with us. 

I think I still hold the L2L record for taking the heaviest load without paying any baggage fees, set last trip in late 2011 when I hauled 170 lbs (77 kg) of equipment and very few personal belongings from Idaho to Maseru.  This year, I carried a mere 150 lbs (68 kg) because I had other volunteers helping to carry some pretty heavy loads as well.

Among my many tips to maximize the amount of equipment I can take for free:  Fly on an airline that lets you take two 50 lb. bags free on international flights, maximize your carry-on with a "laptop" bag almost as big as a regular carry-on, wear a multi-pocket vest loaded down with 10 lbs of gear, carry rain gear and heavy clothing in your hand  (I've been snowed on in Lesotho during their summer, so warm clothes are a must any time of year), and buy toiletries and undergarments once in-country.  And be in good shape, because, even after you've checked those 100 lbs through to your destination, you still have 50-70 lbs of stuff to lug with you through multiple airports, on planes, and to ground transport.

Unfortunately, coming back this year, I carried almost as much weight as I took.  That was because I brought back a couple XO laptops, for repairs I couldn't do in Lesotho, a dozen defunct batteries, and a full set of Lesotho textbooks for grades 1-7.  I'm planning to pass those out to volunteers who will help us compile and/or create appropriate lessons for the XOs that will closely follow the curriculum.
Sherrie and Jen had a great idea for protecting sensitive equipment in their luggage.  They brought an inflatable foam camping pad to sleep on.  With it compressed flat and lining their bag, they packed equipment inside.  Then, they inflated the pad - instant firm padding around everything.  It was ingenious.
- Janissa
Up next - Trip Report #2: Lost Luggage and Stolen Equipment

A Glowing Review

Here's a review of Laptops to Lesotho written and posted by a supporter in Lesotho who recently visited Kokobe Primary to see our work in action.

"I have been familiar with this organization for just over a year and I recently visited one of the schools where Laptops to Lesotho has just introduced the laptops to the students and staff. What strikes me most about the people involved in this work is their dedication and commitment, especially in view of the difficult area of Lesotho which they have targeted as well as the limited resources they have. The people involved are extremely enthusiastic and excited about their work and the people they are serving are also excited about the opportunties they are provided with in having these laptops at their schools. The work relies on volunteeers, both local and from abroad. Training is given to put the power of the project into the hands of the local teachers who will be working with their students. The fact that the Basotho are so involved in managing the project is very inspiring and indicative of the true partnership that has developed. Certainly a project worthy of mention and support!"  Mark