The Alearn OLPC Volunteers: Who, What, and Why?

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2016

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Flag of United States  , New Hampshire
Monday, May 28, 2012

Last October, 2011 there was a panel discussion for everything one needs to know about small(er) OLPC XO projects, or deployments as OLPC calls them. Volunteers like myself from "boutique projects" around the world came together for the OLPC Volunteer Summit, and we found ourselves working together on this panel. Who are we? Pictured below, Christoph, OLPC Austria (OLPC News and global project consultant); Craig, Jamaica; Nancie, NH and SE Asia; Adam, MA and Haiti (OLPC Volunteer Community Coodinator); Laura, OLPC France and Madagascar; Mark, OLPC Toronto and Kenya; and Cherry,  OLPC SF & Philippines. OLPC SF, and this photo and this panel, was the beginning of Alearn. Sameer, OLPC SF and Jamaica (SF- Summit CEO), Mitch, Denmark & eKindling Volunteer, Philippines, Bill, OLPC USVI. Nina, OLPC SF, Quentin, OLPC France & Madagascar, and a few others volunteer colleagues are also Alearners.

We Alearners began as a group of like minded volunteers interested in sharing successes, challenges and solutions for our small projects. Actually I don't know the entire story of our founding.  I took off for Thailand that Sunday after our downtown sessions. I missed the great party at the Kleider's home during which our group was formed. It must have been the beer that clouded judgment about taking on even more responsibility. Someone still has to fill me in on the details:). I can say that all of us have equal passion for the OLPC mission. We all love adventure travel and travel adventures, and we all know that we can improve future opportunities for children who might otherwise be left behind, with our efforts.

OLPC does not accept directed donations; e.g., if someone wants to make a tax deductible donation to one of our projects through OLPC, that can't be done. We began discussing the need for a separate fund-raising arm (still unresolved):). Our first idea is to collaborate and self publish a 'Coffee Table Book" with stories and photos of "boutique deployments" that are changing children's lives across the globe. We all have fabulous photos and we are working to finish our book!

Since November, 2011, we have been meeting on Skype every Sunday morning for a group call and discussion. Usually we have about 6 of us participating in the weekly meetings. When we miss one, we catch up on the next week. All of the minutes are transcribed and available for review.

Alearners have already evolved into what I am calling the Alearn Consulting Crew (ACC). Do you think we need a more professional name?

In February, 2012, the first ACC trip to Jamaica planted the seeds for a potential and very real expansion of the Jamaica XO Projects. The volunteers worked with teachers, children, and met with other Jamaicans. See details and photos here:  Quentin and Bill produced a wonderful video from the week of work there also.► 14:36► 14:36; A Film Directed by Quentin Peries-Jolie and William Stelzer.

And then in March, Alearners came together again in Boston and remotely to work on the Refresh Help Activity Sprint. See details and photos here: This month, Alearners will be in Haiti, Jamaica and Nosy Komba, Madagascar, Kenya, and Tanzania.

This week's meeting was unusual in that most everyone was traveling. I did the minutes and share them here, so that our readers can get an idea of what we do.

Alearn Skype call May 27, 2012
Meeting Minutes

It’s a holiday weekend in the USA and our Alearn Consulting Crew (ACC) was mostly on the road. Where are we?
Christoph is in Holland. Nina is in GMT Zone 10, whereever that is & the call would have been at 5:00AM. Bill is in Haiti shooting great stuff. Adam is in Jamaica with Craig and Bernie I. Their excuse was Negril Beach:) Laura is in transit on the was to Nosy Komba (Madagascar). Safe productive and fun travels everyone.

Mark B and I had held a meeting. We discussed:

1. Khan video testing. They pass my thorough tests with Sugar and the XO-1, using USB drives with selected video files on them. They work fine on Sugar as long as one is patient with the time it takes to open and close the chosen Activity. Jukebox is the default player and works, but has no pause/play button. If you hover to start the Activity, and choose Start with > Browse then you will have a pause play button. Quitting the Activity takes 30 to 45 seconds on an XO-1. As usual the XO-1 teaches me patience and that’s a good thing.

2. We discussed the evolving Kenya Deployment Model that Mark and Team are fine-tuning. The heretofore, mostly elusive goal is for local ownership and administration of the XO programs. Signs are that this is actually happening in Ntugi with the local Hero/Heroes model. One local graduate, Godfrey, is in Teacher’s College, the local intern, Simon, (paid) will probably transition to Teachers College with tuition support from the funds raised by the Ntugi group. A new local intern, Judy, (also paid) for the coming year is in training. A tuition paid education to a degree and then returning to jobs in the home villages to teach is a significant motivator and benefit to individuals and to the community as a whole.  You can find details about the internship model in progress by reading Simon and Judy's reports here:

Governments that buy XOs en masse for every child are rare. Mark hopes he is building a replicable small to larger deployment model. One that can be used as a beginning. In Ntugi, the schools and education ministry, at least at local levels are taking notice. The residents of off the grid villages are asking for power to be brought in so that their schools too can have an XO program. In this way, government Education Ministries can ease their way in, offering some support without a full financial commitment. Alearners think this is a very valuable model to help spread.

ACC - The Alearn Consulting Crew
We discussed the evolving Consulting roles of Alearners. We talked about requests from Haiti, Jamaica etc. for Alearn volunteers to travel and consult in country sites. Mark and I agree that all of us love travel, we love OLPC and the XO projects, and we most of all, we love seeing, working with and photographing the children with the XOs! The hovering question continues to be: How do we volunteers fund our travel and schedule productive trips? How do we balance taking funds that could go directly to projects, i.e., children to pay for our expenses and /or consulting stipend? We a bit about the different personal needs we might have as volunteers, (some time off on a trip; lodging requirements; e.g., (Nancie needs an A/C room if it is mid-summer:) and Mark points out that NGO administrators receive a salary. This discussion needs to continue & could be an agenda item for a future call. Nancie sees the development of the ACC as a core benefit to sustainability of Alearn.

The call was about 45 minutes in length. WE Alearners are all over the place! Mark is off to Kenya and Tanzania soon. I will miss next week’s call as I am helping Dogi (Stefan Unterhauser) of Sugar Labs with his fun OLPC XO Contributors Project. Dogi plans to bring XOs to local festivals in the Boston area this summer. We will be at the Green Roots Festival in Boston, Sunday June 3, 2012 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Keep up the good work everyone!

If you have read this far, and you would like to reach Alearn for project consultation, leave a comment on the blog and I can connect you to our group to see how we can help!
Nancie Severs
OLPC and Alearn Volunteer
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