René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

My Charity-Project: OLPC for the Vatsalya-Orphanage

I felt like doing it for quite some time, so I am happy to move ahead and today announce my charity project „OLPC for Vatsalya“. What I intend to do: Raise EUR 2,800 ($3,900) and equip the Vatsalya Orphanage in Bangalore (India) with 11 computers from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative.

Background
It’s been already 2 years that I have been supporting the Vatsalya Orphanage in Bangalore with donations and my regular presence which every time has warmed up my heart unlike anything else. The girls in the orphanage aged 5 to 14 might not have had the best start for life, all of them coming from poor backgrounds, some without parents, a few only with a mother who is financially unable to take care of them. Yet, every time I went there and and saw them smiling, happy, curious and eager for learning is nothing but the result of the adorable environment the Vatsalya team has been able to put together. The team consists employed “mothers“ as well as teachers who interact with the children during their schooling, whereas the major organizational backbone stems from the board of committed volunteers. One of the board members is my neighbour Shashi who lives one door away from me, who introduced me to Vatsalya and has been devoting numerous hours every week in her life.

Vatsalya Bangalore 02

Project
From all the things one can do for good, the thing one will do should be close to one’s heart. In my case, as an internet-entrepreneur and sublime nerd who spends a big chunk of the day in front of the computer, bringing children from an early age in touch with technology as part of their fundamental education is an imperative. Something which children in the west can take for granted in their essential formative years, obviously falls short for those in India who grow up in underprivileged conditions. The most saddening thing the many times I drove by a slum in Bangalore or Mumbai is to see the many children (many indeed!), among whom there might be the brains of an Albert Einstein, Azim Premji, Joseph Ratzinger or Mahatma Gandhi – yet without the possibility of unfolding their talent. Here at least at Vatsalya exists the organisational framework for a different path.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is an non-profit initiative of the MIT-founder Nicholas Negroponte which I became aware of for the first time through his TED-Talk. OLPC builds simple and particularly robust notebooks which have been optimized for children in the third world; hence the machines are able to withstand heat, dust, humidity and one or the other knock on the ground. With learning the fundamentals of computers which are moreover fully internet-enabled, the children will have access to the same window to the world as all of you who a reading these lines. A window which will empower them for a significantly higher career path than without it.

Here a brief outline with some slides to explain the scope and some operational issues of the project.

The plan is too buy and deploy 11 computers for the orphanage (10 for the 50 girls girls, 1 for the teachers). Initially, I intended to aim for 50 computers, as the name “One Laptop per Child” suggests. But after watching Dr Mitra’s experiment of a “Hole in the Wall” (great TED talk here), I was convinced otherwise: Children can teach each other a hell of a lot by sharing one computer, and secondly I did not want to fall into the known trap to “over-invest” in a charity project. Rather, by following a step by step approach, bringing a community of donors and volunteers together, rising along the learning curve, proving accountability from my end, the ultimate intention will be to scale concept either within the Vatsalya Orphanage and/or idetify other deserving “targets” with subsequent funds.

Last but not least, I would like to mention Petra Rautenberg who has done tons of invaluable research and will further be in charge as project manager. In 2004, I employed Petra in my company in Bangalore, she moved back to Munich with her husband a year later and we have become good friends ever since.

Call for Action
In order to make it as concise as possible in this first message, I would be honoured if you could help me with your donations and I will deliver. As I would really get as many people involved as possible, I would kindly ask you to let me know what you would be willing to donate as a maximum amount. In order not to get too atomized in the first phase, I would request for a minimum of EUR 50. In case, we collect more than the EUR 2,800 from the commitments, we’ll do a bit of maths-magic (arithmetic mean with iterative integration :-) so that everybody gets involved. As initially we should focus on the subject and action instead of structures, there is no foundation whatsoever involved so that the donation will not be tax-deductible. I promise to be a trustful care-taker, I will make your donations public in your name and I will show ongoing accountability. And, I will keep you posted on the progress here on my blog.

If you want to show your support, drop me a mail under rene.seifert (at) gmail.com , or connect on Twitter or on Facebook and let me know how much you are willing to commit.

Thanks a lot in advance, together we can make a small change for the better and help these girls walk towards a brighter future.
René

P.S.: Happy to share already these donations: My good old school friends Juri Reisner and Martin Wunsch donated EUR 100 and EUR 50 respectively. Myself, I have committed EUR 300, so another EUR 2350 to go.

 

Comments

  1. Dirk Schornstein
    June 18th, 2009 | 8:52

    I had the honor and pleasure of visiting the orphanage during my stay in India with René last year. The institution is not luxurious, but well run and clean. You get the impression that the girls are very well cared for. The girls are bright, lively, curious and adorable. René and I sat in front of one class, answered their questions. A feisty one in the third row asked: How come you are so tiny when René is so tall? :-)

    René and I even had to sing a song for them, which was embarrassing at first, but felt great afterwards.

    It was a remarkable experience to visit there, I fully support this excellent project. From what I’ve seen the computers will really make a difference in Vatsalya and give the girls a chance to develop their potential. For a better future.

  2. February 20th, 2010 | 7:38

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