Friends, family, stalkers, and assorted blogosphere readers, I have a great way you can get involved in one of my projects!
I’m calling it Kindles For Kiddos (don’t laugh, the runner up was iPods For Ithopians).
As many of you know, I live in a town of 70,000 people, yet there is no library. No school library, no public library, nothing. Think about that for just a minute. The high school students don’t have textbooks. There isn’t a magazine or newspaper for miles. Little kids have no children’s books. There is simply no access to information for the people in my community.
However, with the help of many local officials and my incredible counterpart, we’re trying to change that. Four years ago, my town built a library but it was never opened because the project ran out of funds to purchase books. So I’m currently in the process of applying for a few grants and book donations that will hopefully finally fill and open the library.
But I’d like to go one step farther: I would like to get a few Kindles or iPads. The biggest problem with traditional books is that they’re heavy, bulky, and expensive to ship to a location as remote as mine. But one small tablet device can hold literally thousands of books and introduce the older students in my town to the types of technology they’ll be encountering if they are fortunate enough to get into college in one of the cities. Furthermore, with an iPad in particular, I would be able to bring recent news and periodicals into my community. That’s both really cool and totally revolutionary.
There are also a couple book donation NGOs that are active in my area that are flirting with larger-scale tablet donation programs, so I want to make my library a sort of beta test for such a program to gauge how sustainable this concept would be in rural Africa. With any luck, mine would be the first of many libraries in the region that offers both digital and traditional resources.
This is where you, oh generous reader, come in. I’m searching for those tech geeks among you who might be upgrading to new iPads or Kindles (or other tablets) and are looking for something to do with the old device. Or perhaps you work in an office where folks might be willing to all pitch in 20 bucks to purchase one of these items. Or maybe you have a techie friend, colleague, or neighbor who might have an extra device and would want to donate it to an Ethiopian library. If so, it would be an enormous contribution to my community. I’ll even send you a photo of the folks here using your device. (Fellas: these types of photos really impress the ladies, as they show your caring, generous side so well. Trust me on this one.)
And even if you don’t have a tablet to donate, you can still help by circulating this blog post to your friends and family (especially if you’re buddies with Steve Jobs). If this went viral, it would be about the coolest thing ever. And as you might be able to guess, there’s no hipster-filled Mac store in my town, so you can also help if you happen to have an extra case, power cord, or other accessories.
Note that I AM NOT in a position to take cash contributions. Receiving monetary donations entails a lengthy paperwork process that must go through official Peace Corps channels. Since this is a relatively inexpensive proposition and many of you have expressed interest in somehow helping out with my work here, I’d like to try this route first. Besides, this is more fun than just asking for money.
Also, please DO NOT ship anything without first contacting me. Electronics shipped into Ethiopia incur a 100 percent tariff. So if you sent me a $600 machine, I’d have to pay an additional $600 in taxes. And since my living allowance amounts to only a few US dollars a day, these fees would be the rough equivalent of buying a ski-in-ski-out chalet in Aspen.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll make arrangements to have a friend in the States load the machine up with all the materials and bring it over when he visits this winter.
And please, please remember to delete those photos from your Vegas trip off your iPad before you send it. You know the ones I’m talking about.