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Laptops to Lesotho Inc.

Rating: 5 stars   14 reviews 132

Nonprofit Issues:

Education, International, Economic Development, Microfinance

Address:

55 Eagle Creek Rd Wayan ID 83285 USA

Mission:

Our mission is to break the vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty, and disease that is leading to early death in Lesotho by working through a local, grassroots, community-based organization to high quality education and job skills for the children in rural Lesotho. To do this, we provide special children's laptop computers and access to the internet. Thses laptops, and the access to information they provide, are an avenue for growth and improvement in the students' lives and in the community as a whole.  We believe that truly successful solutions to the multitude of problems facing the people of Lesotho will come only when the Basotho devise and embrace solutions as their own.  The best way to prepare them for that is through education and access to information, and the best time to reach them is when they are young. Our primary goal is to give each and every child in the community their very own laptop.  With child-ownership, the laptops can be used both in the structured environment of the classroom and by the children on their own, away from school, for unstructured learning and discovery at their own pace. We use refurbished XO laptops by the One Laptop Per Child organization, unique notebook-sized computers designed specifically for children in less developed countries. The laptops are a fun way to expand on the basic classroom skills of reading, writing, and math.  They also help develop more advanced skills such as logic, conceptualization, and problem-solving.  The operating system can be changed to a more advanced interface as the students’ skills progress. Our secondary goal is to make this completely a community-run program.  This idea was started by people in the community, and we serve merely as facilitators to help them achieve their goal.  To this end, our team includes three staff members from the school, two in prominent leadership roles.  We work with the community throughout the entire process to ensure their continued, long-term participation.  We mentor and train selected individuals in community organization.  This year, we will be teaching them fundraising and grant-writing, so that eventually they take over and run this project on their own.

Results:

In 2008, Andrew Dernovsek, then a Peace Corp Volunteer in Ketane, started teaching computer skills to his colleagues, students, and members of the community on his own computer.  The community was so enthusiastic about the idea that they raised money to buy a second, used computer, and they set up a donated solar power system to run them.  The school then used its surplus power to charge cell phones for a fee to earn money to purchase a printer/scanner/copier. A new building to house the school was started with labor and supplies donated by the community.  Thus started the Ketane Computer School. In June 2009, the Balcomb family donated two children’s laptops, unique computers designed by One Laptop Per Child, to Nohana Primary School, immediately adjacent to the Ketane Computer School.  In 2010, 48 more of these laptops were delivered to the school. A gas generator-powered electrical system was installed to charge and run the laptops, and a network server was set up. All the teachers and the principal at Nohana Primary participated in three weeks of intensive training on the computers.  They now run the computer school and also teach their primary school students using the computers in the classroom.  Even with just 50 computers so far for over nearly 400 students, they have already seen improvement in the students’ language skills, increased enthusiasm for learning, near perfect attendance, and better behavior. They now receive strong support from parents, who even permit their children to attend during the harvest when they are needed in the fields. The school asked if there was a way to get more of the special kids’ laptops, and that request gave birth to this project.  In the following months, founders Andrew Dernovsek and Janissa Balcomb recruited seven more team members and developed goals and objectives with an eye toward laying a strong foundation for what will hopefully be a long-term, community-run project.  They set up a website and started a blog to serve as a step-by-step record of our work. School officials and the Ketane local council committed to supply labor, services, and some of the materials.  This contribution is a huge sacrifice because most of the people live at or near the subsistence level.  The school held a contest for the students to name the project and design a logo. We have raised over $10,00 in donations and pledges.  We have acquired 50 used laptops.  We partnered with several organizations who are providing support and/or funding, including BLOOM Africa, Friends of Lesotho, Peace Corps/Lesotho, School Technology Innovation Center, Family Literacy Lesotho, and Foundation for International Partnership Exchange (FIPE).  FIPE agreed to fund a professional exchange to bring one of our Basotho team members to the U.S. to observe and train with teachers in Colorado.  In November 2010, we will be (1) setting up the network and internet infrastructure solar power system (2) distributing 53 laptops to 6th grade students, teachers, and a school computer lab (3) training teachers and working to incorporate the laptop activities into the existing curriculm, and (4) working with the local community. Our organization has earned the GuideStar.org Exchange Seal transparency and proactive information disclosure.

Target demographics:

Primary school-age children in Ketane, Lesotho Lesotho is a mountainous kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa.  It is one of the poorest nations in the world.  The terrain is rugged, there are few roads, and many villages are isolated and only accessible by foot or horseback.  The mountain soils are poor, and only about 10% of the land is arable.  Winters are harsh with snow and frequent sub-freezing temperatures. Lesotho has the third highest rate of HIV/AIDS and the fourth highest rate of drug-resistant TB in the world, resulting in an average life expectancy of just 36 years.  The twin epidemics have had devastating effects on family structure, making life extraordinarily challenging for Lesotho’s children.  A large number of today’s children have lost one or both parents.  Some orphans are raised by grandparents, while others live in homes with a child as the head of the house. Primary education is free in Lesotho, but because of responsibilities at home, some children are unable to attend school.  Secondary education is not free, and many students cannot afford it. Ketane is a small, very remote community in the Mohales Hoek District of southwestern Lesotho.  The primary source of income is cattle ranching and raising sheep and goats for wool.  There are two chiefs and a local council who govern the area a well as an active widows association called Diamonds of Ketane. Nohana Primary School currently has 370 students in grades 1-7 and nine teachers.  The teachers’ English ranges from conversant to fluent, and the sixth and seventh grade students are sufficiently fluent in English to be able to use existing computers without translation of the interface into Sesotho.

Direct beneficiaries per year:

In 2010, 25 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students were designated as student leaders and received extra training with the laptops. Nine teachers and a principal received extensive computer training. All the primary school students will have access to the computers at school and the upper grade students are permitted to take them home. Parents and guardians have benefitted by improved behavior of their children at home.

Geographic areas served:

Lesotho, southern Africa

Programs:

Our Treasure Highland Computer Project at Nohana Primary School in Ketane, Mohale's Hoek District, Lesotho, Africa.

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More Info

208-574-2990
http://www.laptopstolesotho.org

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Reviews for Laptops to Lesotho Inc.

Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

If you are looking for a great non-profit to support where you can be confident your contribution will make a big impact, I'd recommend Laptops to Lesotho (L2L)! This organization is taking on the challenge of bringing computer technology to a remote area of Lesotho in order to improve primary school education. By bringing this technology in at primary school level, the students at these schools will have gained an immense advantage in furthering their education, not to mention computer skills. Young lives will be changed forever. The laptops are a wonderful incentive to encourage the students to attend school and be fascinated by a new means of learning. The enthusiasm for learning has sky-rocketed!

I have personally visited one of the schools involved and witnessed the extremely dedicated L2L volunteers in action as they worked with students and staff. L2L is a low-budget, low overhead operation that depends on local and international volunteers who are willing to sacrifice the comforts of home, as well as a bit of their finances, to make a major impact in another part of the world. The volunteers live at the site with the school staff and establish a true partnership. Their goal is to get the project into the hands of the local school staff and students. They don't just hand stuff over; they spend weeks at a school teaching and training so that when they leave (until their next trip to check in how things are going) the laptops will be used, cared for and maintained.

L2L is well-worth you consideration, so check it out!

Was your donation impactful?

Likely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Likely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 
Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

When they decide to do a Survivor: Lesotho reality show my money would be on Janissa and the Laptops To Lesotho team to come out waaaay on top. Although I had met many of the L2L team before and am very familiar with Lesotho this was my first visit to Ketane region and Nohana Primary School. The area is very beautiful and the people even more so but the terrain is rugged, the living conditions challenging and the "roads" are some of the toughest in the region. There's a song by the late lamented Syd Kitchen of Durban called Africa Is Not For Sissies which could have been the theme tune for this journey.

In my three day visit in late January 2013 I met with the Nohana principal & teachers and enjoyed time in classes with some of the children and their XOs. It was a chance to see L2L in action and also to meet some of the volunteers. I had wanted to see how things actually work, what kind of involvement there was from the school staff and assess how well suited the XOs are to this kind of context. I also wanted to see how well the children - who had had little or no other exposure to this kind of initiative - responded.

On all counts I was truly impressed. Although everyone was a bit rusty after the long summer holiday it was clear that teachers and children alike relish this opportunity. The younger children in particular seemed to `get it' very quickly and I am sure this project has already had an extraordinary impact.

Of course there's always `more' which could happen but the strength of L2L is that it proceeds at the pace at which local stakeholders can handle. They are, after all, the ones who will take L2L from being a great idea to being a practical, replicable model which makes sense in the Lesotho mountain school context. Or not.

The volunteer corps - Tony, Mamatsepe, Mary - were all inspirational, indefatigable and versatile.

Above all Janissa's calm, hands-on and sleeves-rolled up approach sets the tone - an approach which I saw perfectly mirrored by 2 Grade 7 girls as they set about replacing a screen on an XO. No mess, no fuss. Just get the job done. It made my heart sing.

I am a South African educator, linked to a small donor organisation which has been working in rural Southern Africa for over 30 years. We have funded L2L since 2011 and look forward to learning more invaluable lessons as the initiative develops.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

I was fortunate to be a part of the 2013 trip to Lesotho. I saw firsthand how well this organization is run and the benefits to students and teachers. Janissa Balcomb, project leader, impressed me with her problem solving abilities and organizational skills. These are two important assets to have to make Laptops 2 Lesotho the effective organization that it is. Teachers were very receptive to the training, and the efforts they put forth in learning the laptops showed a true commitment to the project. Unfortunately I had to leave before the project started working with the students. I did observe the excitement in the students the day we took several laptops to the village. It was obvious they knew how to operate the computers as they quickly found music and other programs on the laptops. It was an honor to be part of this organization that is helping to bring technology to a small village in rural Africa.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

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!

Was your donation impactful?

Likely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Likely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 

Thanks, Mark. I'm glad you finally got a chance to see our work in action at Kokobe. And I'm happy you liked what you saw. Maybe next time you'll get to stay a little longer :) Janissa

Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

I met Janissa towards the end of 2011 and think that the project she is running is wonderful.

Anyone running a project of any sort can take notes from the processes they have put in place to ensure commitment from the children, teachers and more importantly the community. This is NOT another project where a bunch of computers are handed over and everyone pats themselves on their backs, but rather a well thought out process culminating in an improved lifestyle for the children.

Definitely worth getting involved with/finding out about.

Regards,
Russell Fox
Ficksburg, South Africa

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

Laptos to Lesotho provides an opportunity for the Basotho to gain a foothold into the technology age. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Lesotho at a vocational school I know that any and every effort to bring technology into that country is vital. Laptops to Lesotho represents an excellent way to do that......its volunteers have been there and go there.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my dealings with the director.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

find ways to raise more money because of the importance of what it does

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Likely

What specific problem, purpose, priority, or project prompted your gift?

Prior knowledge of the need for computer age training of the Basotho

Why did you make your donation at this time?

I am convinced it is needed.

What would you tell others about this organization?

Check out their website and mission statements.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

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.

ACHIEVEMENTS
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.

SUCCESS
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.

THANKS
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.

PART 2
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."

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I attended training in Soweto and at Nohana Primary School. I work with Andrew Dernovsek, Janissa Balcomb, Graig Balcomb, Delia Helie, and Aaron Laufman-Walker. In March 2011, I traveled to United States for a professional and cultural exchange sponsored by Foundation for International Professional Exchange and Laptops to Lesotho in Pueblo West, Colorado.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

give them more money and recognition.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

How did you find this group?

Andrew Dernovsek was a Peace Corps Volunteer who helped our school.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

Laptops to Lesotho is a nonprofit organization founded by my aunt, Janissa Balcomb. After donating two laptops to a school in Lesotho, they asked if there was any way to get more because the laptops were so well received. Janissa started by looking into the OLPC grant program, which at the time seemed to be the perfect opportunity to deliver 100 more laptops to the students at Nohana Primary School. Janissa invested a lot of time communicating with the community in Lesotho, organizing volunteers, researching the laptops and necessary technology, and laying groundwork for the project in hopes of being awarded an OLPC grant. After several months, we realized the requirements for the OLPC grant program had changed, and we would not be eligible to receive grant money from them. Instead of giving up, Janissa forged ahead, creating this nonprofit organization Laptops to Lesotho so that the project could continue. The entire Laptops to Lesotho team is hard working and incredibly dedicated to this project. Through our combined efforts, the students at Nohana Primary School will receive their own laptops which will give them access to a better education and a better future. The best part about this organization, in my opinion, is how community-driven it is. The idea for more laptops came from the community, community members are actively involved in the project, and the entire organization will eventually be run completely by members of the community.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the many connections we have made within the community in Lesotho and with other similarly minded individuals, teams, and nonprofits. It's amazing the number of opportunities that have arisen from these connections.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

enthusiastic, excited, and imaginative! They have accomplished a lot in a short period of time.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-9-01

Was this review helpful? 
Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

Laptops to Lesotho is a well-run, well-organized nonprofit with a clear mission. Their communications are effective and efficient. Their leaders have both skill and imagination. I am very pleased to work with them.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

their willingness to collaborate with my nonprofit called "Family Literacy Lesotho"

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-9-01

Was this review helpful? 
Role: General Member of the Public
Rating: 5 stars  

8 people found this review helpful

The organization is very focused on obtainable objectives in equipping students of Lesotho with laptops. This connects the students to the outside world, inspires them to further their education, and opens them up to other educational opportunities. I like how the organization is dedicated to working directly with the educators in Lesotho. The organization is not taking on more than they can readily accomplish, so trouble-shooting is effective and timely. From my discussions with them, it sounds like they want to grow cautiously and gradually so as not to compromise the current mission.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my relationship with some of the volunteers.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

they are focused and determined to equip students in Lesotho with laptops no matter what!

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

dedicated and serious about their mission.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

provide laptops for students in remote areas around the world.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-6-01

Was this review helpful?