As the trip to Kenya finally wound down to a close, reflection began on what to us was yet another incredible summer experience. Twelve months ago, we set the bar high for ourselves and declared it our mission to “continue bringing awareness towards the need to bridge the world’s digital divide” and also play our part in it “by developing and deploying as many of our systems as possible through the help and support of our partners.”
Many considered the goals and aspirations of this small interdisciplinary group of students from the University of Michigan to be too ambitious, too youthful and overly optimistic, but little did they know that we were determined. Having managed to successfully build three custom systems during the academic school year and have them sent to different countries around the world (Brazil, Kenya & Sierra Leone), one aspect of our 2012 mission was complete. With each project having its fair share of successes and shortfalls we learned a great deal from them all to help us with our upcoming projects in the future.
By the end of it all, we had yet another fantastic summer in Kenya and are truly grateful to all of our sponsors and supporters who helped make the 2012 trip a success! We really appreciate the readers of this blog who shared in the experience with us and hope to continue our journey with you all into the summer of 2013! As we would like to hear your thoughts on “E-MAGINE”, do feel free to send feedback, questions or comments to email@example.com or contact the organization’s President Rama Mwenesi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till the next post….
Following the chronicles of “The Kenya System”, while we had managed to test it successfully in the nation’s capital, Nairobi, we unfortunately were unable to set it up at the Amani Children’s Home in Kithoka, Meru. This was because we still did not have the go-ahead to use the solar panels and batteries that were previously shipped there by other donors…
Thinking that we had found ourselves at a dead end…incredible news soon came our way.
We had recently learned that within the coming weeks, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator Safaricom would be setting up a WiMax 3G Base station within two kilometers of Amani. And while this meant that there would “no need” for E-MAGINE’s off-the-grid 3G Base station, it also meant that the second aspect to our 2012 mission was complete! Serendipitously, through the work of multiple agencies advocating for connectivity in the area, particularly E-MAGINE, members of the Kithoka community could now look forward to the prospect of a dedicated wireless broadband connection in their region and this we considered to be a great achievement for the community!
There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living — #NelsonMandela
The E-MAGINE system we had built and travelled with to Kenya was to be tested at the Kithoka Amani Children’s Home (KACH) which was set to have solar panels and deep-cycle batteries on hand as we were unable to travel with them or purchase them locally. A massive crate had been shipped to the orphanage from Spain and it was explained that its contents included both panels and batteries. We unfortunately however could not open or use any of them until the donors had arrived and configured their entire solar-system first therefore the wait was scheduled for at least 3-4 weeks. With the timeline of the trip coming to a close, it is my hope that we will receive good news on their solar set-up and have room therein for the integration of our system! Over the course of my last few days in Kenya, I will make it a point to visit the schools and agencies visited last summer such as the Dagoretti Muslim Primary School in Nairobi as well as the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) to maintain and develop the relationships built and also identify where and how we can assist them in their collective efforts to educate, empower and better their communities.
Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can use to change the world. — #NelsonMandela (E-MAGINE & S.E.W Kili Climb 2012)
During my last few days in Meru, all I remember wishing was that my days had just a few more hours in them! From having to work closely with each of the social-entrepreneurship teams and organizing the final days of the Michiken program, to coordinating meetings for E-MAGINE, and even planning the logistics of my Kilimanjaro Charity Climb (that I decided to do a mere 7 days before the actual climb) – the pace of everything was quite honestly indescribable…!
Maximizing the value of each and every hour, miraculously, we seemed to make it all work!
As soon as I had completed my duties for Michiken on the second last day of the trip, I was off to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (where I had visited last summer for E-MAGINE) as well as the Ntugi Day Secondary School. Accompanied by Layne Vandenburg from UofM, we met with Mark Battley who for the past three years had led several projects with the Upper Canada Boys School aiming to assist schools within Lewa’s Education Program. I had heard plenty of their amazing work some of which overlapped significantly with that of E-MAGINE. His most recent project involved the deployment of 40 OLPC XO laptops at Ntugi and next on their agenda was addressing the issue of connectivity! From that, discussions for potential collaboration between his group and E-MAGINE immediately ensued! It was a great meeting overall that gave us a better insight from someone on the ground about the challenges facing rural tech development as well as the various possibilities that lay ahead in the quest for connectivity.
It really is true that people are more alike than they are different. — #LayneVandenburg