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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
Ficksburg, South Africa
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.