It’s an honor to be here in such company! I want to share something I’m helping my son with that PLP is supporting too.
Something bigger than a school project.
This year I had the pleasure of watching my Son’s heart and mind grow in ways that caught me quite off guard. He was casting about for a senior project but he wanted to do something that really mattered to him and the world. His high school asks seniors to do a legacy project as a class but they also expect every senior to design and execute a project that is meaning for them personally.
I’d spoken to him about a teacher I knew about who leads a school in Nepal and told him about their dire need for essentials for learning. It had been a long time since that conversation and I figured he’d forgotten all about it but he asked me about the teacher and the school again. Govinda Was his name and together we contacted him through email.
Knowing that this educator teaches in a rural region of Nepal, one hour south of Khatmandu, it’s amazing to me that he can get online at all. We planned a Skype call where we could ask questions and begin to form up a plan for trying to assist him and his students. To talk to us or email us Govinda had to walk an hour to an internet cafe and spend money by the hour. Upon learning this Ben realized that getting Govinda to talk to us cost him resources consisting of time, energy and money. In other words, trying to help Govinda and his kids without understanding what their situation is could cost them resources and not help them at all.
Ben’s project took a serious turn that night as he realized the responsibility that really trying to help someone half way across the world entailed. He partnered with his friend Jake and they sat down and began designing a plan to try to bring resources to the school.
Govinda had shared some of the areas of need in the Skype meeting but what seemed to be most important to the kids and teachers there were books. They had very few books in the library, somewhere around twenty and the kids, over one hundred had read them many, many times. Govinda’s dream was to build a library, full of books.
Ben and his partner designed a website to tell the story of the school and to serve as a funnel for donations. Since they knew that a big barrier to getting people to help was trust, they set about to find ways to prove the school existed and share that proof on the site. They contacted people who had visited the school and got their pictures and stories and archived them on the site. The first thing they focused on was getting two computers and internet access into the school. Their thinking was that if people could see the school and meet the students they would make a bigger connection and want to help.
Their site URL is http://ouropenworldproject.org and since they started after Christmas they have raised $2803.56 toward their $5000 goal. $2000 will purchase two laptops and a year’s worth of connectivity. The other $3000 is for books and furniture for the library. Leveraging the web to get paper books is an interesting approach and they are definitely doing that. Their using Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, and any other social networking tools to get word out and share the cause. Some time in the next two weeks they will send the first money to Govinda and he will purchase two laptops and get the school online.
Ben and his friend Jake and the whole school in Buhler Kansas are so excited at the prospect of seeing the kids and teachers in Nepal through the lens of a webcam. As for my son, he wants to continue this kind of work. He’s gone from socializing on Facebook to seeing networks as tools for positive change and as a Dad, I couldn’t be happier. I want to thank PLP for jumping in with a BIG donation to help them reach their goal!