May 2009

This will be the last post before we leave. We’ve wrapped up our planning and are just waiting for our flights to take off. Marie gave a brief presentation about the project to her local Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs and 4 different papers have printed stories about the project so far. (You can see one here at Although we anticipate running over budget by 2-3 thousand dollars, we are hopeful that with additional time and the results to show for our work, we will be able to recover the costs when we return to the US.

We’re bringing the following project items with us:

5 XO laptops, 3 routers, USB sticks, 1 external hard drive, 1 Macbook Pro, 3 unlocked cell phones, $2000 cash (in $100 bills printed after the year 2000-they get the best exchange rate)

We’ll buy solar panels, adapters, power strips, cell phone minutes, additional cords and things when we arrive. We’ll also receive a Flip video camera during the Kigali workshop.

In terms of personal items, we’re bringing:

Clothes, towels, sheets, toiletries, anti-malarial medications, medications for the side-affects of the anti-malarials, DEET, sunscreen, sunglasses (the malaria prophylaxis doxycycline causes sun sensitivity), cash/credit cards for personal expenses, international medical insurance cards, money belts, water bottles, iodine tablets.

We’ll buy mosquito nets, additional weather/culture appropriate clothing, and whatever else seems necessary once when we arrive.


The last week has been really busy. All three of members of our team were taking finals and moving out of apartments, but we now get one completely free week to finish preparing. We had an hour of meetings with the team and another hour with Bryan Stuart, our OLPC adviser today. The main goal is to continue creating and testing lesson plans for use once the physical deployment has been finished, and to continue working for last-minute funding. It seems like the incredibly short-time line of this project is a fundamental flaw when it comes to fundraising. We contacted organizations like Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions Clubs a few weeks ago, but never received a response, and since the  clubs usually book speakers weeks in advance, our chances are slim.  Just in case, we have prepared a donation form and budget breakdown for use when presenting to these organizations. Worst case scenario, we may end up taking the Girl Scout cookie approach and camping out in front of Safeway the next few days with an XO and some informational pamphlets. ;P

As of now, we’ve completed the bulk of the planning. We booked our flights to Entebbe a few weeks ago. We will be departing from California on June 1 and will arrive on June 3 so that we will be able to spend a few days visiting our deployment site in Buwaiswa and meeting our contact at OGLM before attending the training workshop in Kigali. We plan to purchase solar panels while we are in-country and can personally assess the quality of the panels and the installation needs. If we order them before the orientation, hopefully they will arrive shortly after our return on June 18. On June 7, we will return to Entebbe to meet with the Colorado College OLPCorps team and bus to Rwanda together.

Currently, our primary concern is funding. We did not originally include solar panels in our budget, so we are in search of new sponsorship to cover the costs of adding this $2000+ expenditure. We have contacted numerous solar power NGOs working in Africa and many service organizations in the US so far without success. Since there is no time to plan a fundraising event before we leave, we are hoping to see some positive results from distributing news releases and fundraising letters in the upcoming week.

We are a group of three UC Berkeley undergraduates planning to implement the OLPC program in Buwaiswa, a rural village about 50 km north of Jinja, Uganda with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection. Buwaiswa Primary School has no computer or electrical access and through deploying 100 laptops to 6-12 year olds in this school, we can significantly enhance the quality of education they receive and their potential to advance and assist their disease-stricken community.

• Pedagogical Lead: Tiffany Hsieh – Political Science, Public Policy (minor) ’10
• Logistical Lead: Marie Collins – Political Economy, Global Poverty and Practice (minor) ’11
• Technical Lead: Billy Grissom – Computer Science ’09

Our lessons will begin with instructions for basic use of the XO applications, progress to project-based learning, and culminate in software programming training. Each new level of instruction will provide the tools for the children to perform deeper independent exploration of the laptops’ capacity. We will assign projects pertinent to their daily their lives, including creating a video to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, which will be shared directly with their local community. These types of projects will challenge the children to create meaningful change through the use of their XO. Our technical lead has prior experience teaching children basic web design and programming (Python), and will provide the children with basic training in these skills. With this ability to write open-source programs, the children will be able tailor the XO directly to their level of need throughout the laptop’s five-year lifespan. We hope to collaborate with a fellow OLPCorps Africa team to arrange an exchange between our students, encouraging them to video chat, write, or share projects, thereby creating peer connectivity beyond the scope of the initial local peer-to-peer network. We will create a blog where the children will periodically upload stories, pictures, and ideas they have developed through the use of their laptops. This will encourage them to explore the internet, while allowing us to monitor and assess the impact of the deployment after our departure. Language barriers will be minimal, since classes are taught in English.

Our primary local contact will be the Organization for Good Life of the Marginalized ( Their mission is to provide socio-economic empowerment, advocacy and information sharing to the weakest members of society, specifically children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and their grandmothers. OGLM directs an educational center and an orphanage in Buwaiswa, has close ties to the community and primary school, and has demonstrated a commitment to the creation of a sustainable IT program in Buwaiswa. We will use their facilities initially to store the laptops, and later to provide internet and a reliable electrical source for the children to charge their laptops. They will also provide a truck to transport the 230 kg laptop shipment from the airport to the village. School will be in session throughout our nine-week stay, allowing us to work directly with the school teachers in planning and implementing lesson plans. Additionally, OGLM has committed two staff and four local volunteers to our program, including Hellen Lunkuse, OGLM’s Children’s Computer Trainer and Instructor, who will travel with us to the Kigali training workshop in June. By engaging many layers of the community in the laptop deployment, we hope to ensure program longevity.

We will fly into Entebbe, Uganda on June 4, where we will be met by a member OGLM and driven to Buwaiswa. There we will spend a few days meeting our new partners and developing a firm understanding of the needs of the village. With this information, we will fly out to Kigali on June 7 to put the finishing touches on our deployment plan, and then return to Buwaiswa for the remaining 9 weeks. While our logistical and technical leads are receiving and readying the laptops for distribution, our pedagogical lead will be preparing and advertising information sessions for parents and the community. By the time the laptops are ready, the 100 recipients will have been identified and we will begin the teaching process. We intend to incorporate XO training into the daily classroom schedule, rather than hosting after school lessons.

Since we will be transferring the program directly into the hands of OGLM, we will not have any financial commitment after we leave. However, upon our return to the United States, we may hold fundraising events to alleviate any extra costs incurred by our project and show our continued support for the organization.

Here’s a brief rundown of the work we’ve completed.

In early March, Marie Collins and Tiffany Hsieh first decided to apply to the OLPCorps Africa program. We contacted various NGOs in Africa and decided to partner with the Organization for Good Life of the Marginalized (OGLM) in Uganda. We then sent out emails to a number of computer science and electrical engineering listservs advertising a spot for a third group member to fill the role of our technical lead. After a series of interviews, we invited Billy Grissom, a fourth year Computer Science major, to join our team. Over the next week, we drafted our 750 word proposal and budget, turning it in by the March 27th deadline. Three weeks later, the 15 accepted teams were announced, and we were not on the list. However within a few more days, on April 21st, 15 additional teams were awarded grants, and UC Berkeley OLPC was one of those selected to go to Africa.

Over the last few weeks we have been diligently making arrangements for our trip. Here’s a quick list of things that needed to researched and arranged before leaving:

1. Airfare to Uganda

2. Transportation to the Kigali, Rwanda orientation

3. Yellow fever vaccinations, Ugandan visas, US Passport renewals, anti-malarial prescription, travel insurance

4. Housing and food in our deployment site

5. Transport to and from the airport to the deployment site

6. Tariff laws and payment and/or non-profit exemption on XO shipments to Uganda

7. Solar panel purchase and installation plans

8. Additional deployment material purchases: routers, cables, video cameras

9. In-kind donation collections to give to children: mosquito nets, clothing, etc.

10. Wire transfer of payment to NGO and/or businesses whose services are being used.

11. Lesson planning and correspondence with teachers

12. Fundraising via grants, personal donations, service organizations, etc.

We are the OLPCorps team from the University of California, Berkeley. This summer, we’ll be deploying 100 XO laptops to Buwaiswa Primary School, in Buwaiswa, Uganda a small village north of Jinja. We’ll be working with the Organization for Good Life of the Marginalized (OGLM), a local NGO that works with HIV/AIDS orphans and their grandmothers.

Our goal is to use this page to update our team’s progress before, during, and after our time in Uganda, as well as provide documentation of our work to provide future insight into OLPC small-scale deployments.