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 was a PCV in Lesotho from 2007-09. When I first arrived at Ketane, a group of teachers approached me and asked me if I would please teach them computers because they and their students were lacking skills and far behind others from big cities. Living in remote Ketane, which is a 10 hour taxi from the capital, I thought they were joking. Eventually, the idea grew. 7 months later we were all crowded around my laptop in my small mud hut learning the basics of computers because an area bishop had given me a small solar panel for the project. This eventually grew into the first ever computer school in the area and the school now has a large 120w solar panel and 4 computers for approximately 300 children. Of course this is not enough! Janissa Balcomb, a RPCV from Lesotho formed a non-profit to build this computer school and others like it around Lesotho. Even the few laptops we have distributed now have made such an amazing impact in the students' lives and their educational level. I have seen it firsthand!
We are a small young organization but we have already made significant strides in improving the lives of the children in Ketane, Lesotho.
So what sets us apart, and why should you support our work? We have an amazingly talented group of volunteers who are tenacious, energetic, and passionate about our mission. Most have lived and worked in the Ketane community, so we have first-hand knowledge of the immense need for our help and the great potential for improvement, as well as the obstacles we face. We've seen what other aid organizations have tried, what has worked, and what hasn't, and we've learned from their mistakes.
We built a strong organizational foundation and integrated our work into the community at a pace the community is able to absorb and support. We have spent a great deal of time ensuring that the local community is completely engaged and directly invested in the success of this project. Local teachers and principals hold positions of leadership in our organization, and we mentor and train them so they can run the program effectively. We know from experience that this local support and participation is critical to making long-lasting changes.
We have worked with the teachers and the principal, helping them to write detailed rules and regulations for the project along with contracts and fine schedules that each teacher, student, and parent or guardian of a student must sign in order to participate in this program. These documents clarify exactly what each persons responsibilities are in addition to how they will benefit from the program.
We have spent time intensively training the teachers not only in computer skills but also how to use computers in the classroom to enhance the existing curriculum, and we are helping them develop lesson materials with the computers.
I hope you will give us a chance to continue the work we've started to help the children of Ketane.