René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Orphanage' Category

Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya: Mission Accomplished

After two months of fine-tuning and observation a fresh update: Things are advancing well in Vatsalya, the computers are in use, technology is working and the girls are happy :-) Moreover, from April onwards the training will be enhanced to five times a week by two teachers so that our joint efforts will reap the maximum benefit. These teachers will be paid for long-term by another sponsor, Larsen & Toubro, which Vatsalya was able to attract. Therefore I feel safe to say that by now we can declare the project for the goals we have defined successfully accomplished.

As mentioned in the last update from January, we invested EUR 220 into a new roof for the school patio which has been built and is giving shade to the little children during their school hours from the almost perpendicular sun of South India. Here is the official “Thank You-letter” from the organization:

Recognition Letter Vatsalya Roof

Needless to say that I will regularly come by to Vatsalya and assist wherever I can. Thank you once again for your generous support so that we we were jointly able to make this worthwhile project happen.

Visit to Parikrma Foundation in Bangalore

After Shukla Bose’s inspiring talk at TED India in Novemer 2009, I finally managed today to follow her kind invitation to visit one of the four schools which she has set up in the last six years after the inception of Parikrma Foundation. Check out the website, it’s amazingly well executed, like everything else I have seen today at the tour of  the “Adobe Parikrma Centre For Learning”. (Here is the entire picture set.)

Parikrma Foundation Bangalore: Complex

Given the top-notch organizational standard, one can tell that Shukla has spent a major part of her life in corporate life before she decided to do something that makes a true difference to others. Hence, the place is an amazing mix of high-quality education and dedication of its mostly volunteers as well as salaried full-time teachers. The right attitude for all involved seems of utmost importance for the organization.

Parikrma Foundation: Classroom

“You can’t buy passion”, explains Shukla, and leads by example how focussed and loving she treats each and every of the children, ask them questions, answers the children’s questions back, encourages critical reasoning, a healthy portion of scepticism, gives them a hug and sometimes tender kiss on the cheek.

Parikrma Foundation: Shukla Bose & Rene Seifert

Most importantly, the children feel welcome at this place and encouraged to blossom. As normal as it sounds, it is not. These children have all one thing in common: They hail from very poor families, with an average income of Rs. 800/- (~ EUR 13) per month, and would without Parikrma at best see a school from the outside.

I really like the approach Shukla and her team are taking to their programme: Instead of describing problems and design solutions, they start from a desirable result: Enable children from an underprivileged background to attend college and work their way backwards to overcoming the roadblocks to the objective.

Besides an amazing curriculum which for example is able to teach children from ground zero English in three months, it includes most importantly the family background of the kids as well. It means integrating the parents into the process to convince them of the long term benefit of a good education (lower drop-out rates) to sending alcoholic fathers to therapies and have them afterwards build and run kitchens which feed all the children during school-hours.

Parikrma Foundation: Children at Sports

After my great experience with our charity-project “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya” today’s visit was an eye-opener how something based on good intentions can scale into a significant changer of society like Parikrma. Shukla has in my impression done an amazing job in building a platform where new ideas and improvements are constantly absorbed, a platform which is open to the work of volunteers, some of them – which made it really sympathetic to me – guys with long hair and girls with tattoos (rather a rarity in India). These would be assigned to work in well crafted “modules”. Those can range from providing “slower” pupils a bit of teaching-tailwind within a programme of a few months to just have one educational lesson of 90 minutes on a relevant subject.

Parikrma Foundation: Classroom

If you are interested in Parikrma, my fullest endorsement to donate or help. Here is how it works:

  • Sponsoring one child per year including all expenses like books,  school-uniform, teachers’ salary to the partial rent: $500 per year
  • Sponsoring a whole class where the donor will receive regular reports on the children’s progress: $15,000 per year (30 children with $500 each)
  • Needless to mention, any amount of money is welcome.
  • Volunteering, as described above, also with people from abroad is encouraged.

For all this, ideally visit Parikrma’s website where there is more information and even the possibility to donate online.

Thanks to Shukla and her team, keep up the amazing work and let’s keep in touch. I am sure there is something where we can work together in the future.

Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya: The New Year ahead

Happy New Year to all of you, and all the best for 2010. A quick update from my side on what has happened in the last weeks with our project “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”.

  • The girls are fine, I just went to see them on December 22nd and they were – although in vast majority Hindu – very excited about upcoming Christmas. When I asked what they had learned so far with their new computers, they explained me how to start the machine, change the background colour of the desktop and equally knew who invented the micro-processor and when :-)
  • The computers are all up and running, two of them keep on disconnecting the WiFi-connection. We are in touch with Wipro based on the warranty to get this fixed.
  • Thanks to our network-infrastructure wizard Sumanth, Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) has committed a desktop computer to us, which will replace the current machine acting as the server. We are waiting for NSN to “de-frost” this desktop from its assets.
  • Although we can see initial traction of the girls interacting with the netbooks, we have decided the replace the current teacher and from April have a DAILY 2-hours curriculum. This intention reflects adequately both the importance and the potential that lies in technology-education for children.
  • Hence: If you know any reputable computer school or computer training institution in Bangalore, which would be able to provide a female teacher (against payment) on a daily bases, drop me a mail under rene.seifert [at]

The Vatsalya Children’s Home primarily combines housing and school education for the girls whom we have been supporting in the current project. However, the institution runs in addition daily schooling for children from the surrounding slums on its compound. Shashi, the Secretary of Vatsalya, had asked me if I could support her in building a simple roof above the patio where their lessons take place. So far the kids were exposed to the burning sun, which – South India being South India – tends to be pretty hot. So I committed Rs. 15,000 (EUR 220) from our remaining funds which would allow to close the funding requirement and start with the construction work asap.

From our current financials, we therefore stand at a remaining amount of EUR 756.20 , see the overview on Google Docs. As we have the foreseeable cost of paying the teacher for the daily curriculum from April onwards, I propose to “keep the powder dry” and refrain from any new expenditure unless we get clearer visibility on this.

Wish you a phenomenal year ahead, and I will be happy to keep you updated on Vatsalya and “our girls” :-)

TED India with Inspiration for Profit and Non-Profit

Even after a week of TED India, I feel the inspiration of this unique event still hasn’t left its grip on me. On the weekend, there came via e-mail the request from the TED-team to rate the event, it took me some 10 minutes in all various categories and questions, but the last one was certainly the most important. Besides all the dissecting of single aspects of the event, the holistic question was “How would you rate your overall TED India experience?” On the given scale I gave it the best marks with “off the charts”. This applied for the venue, the Infosys Campus in Mysore, as well.

The Infosys Campus in Mysore

(All pictures of the event, here on my Flickr-set.)

What makes this event so fundamentally unique is the mix of phenomenal speakers in a broad array of disciplines combined with an extremely open discussion culture with the attendees, around 1,000. In terms of the latter: The norm is to just sit down e.g. at lunch or before a session and start a conversation with the people left and right of you. Every time, I felt it was interesting what they had to say, moreover the conversation was characterized by mutual curiosity. The topics started mostly with “what do you do” (without the sales-pitch to it) or “where do you come from”. A phenomenal review of the event which speaks from my heart here at GodInChief from my dear friend Vishal Gondal.

TEDIndia: Day 1 - Vishal Gondal & Rene Seifert

For instance during the last night at the party, I spoke to a PhD in biology who has been running a field study in South India how to reconcile the two apparently contradicting systems of wildlife conservation and that of agriculture for the neighbouring farmers. (There seems to be one …)

Plenty of such exciting conversations on how to lift the life of the underprivileged, especially through grass-root-projects which create some self-sustaining momentum. Those can have an approach of “one person at a time” to scalable models. A brief update at this point on our own charity “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”: We are optimizing tiny little bits and pieces. Being an anal German we bought some buttons from felt which we installed below the table-legs to stop them rock, got some pillows for the chairs so that the very little girls would not have to have their arms at the level of their ears to reach the keyboard.

In fact, it was Petra who who took care of it during her and her husband’s Jürgen visit to Bangalore in the last weeks. Jürgen with his IT-network expertise installed a new, more robust WiFi-router which is better suited to serve 12 concurrent connections. Last, but not least: This month, the computer training started with an experienced female teacher twice a week.

Also, I would not like to withhold the official “thanking letter” from Shashi in the name of the institution.

Thanking Letter Vatsalya

What TED’s inspiration taught me or at least recalled to keep in consideration: If you do business for profit, there is always some higher calling beyond the P&L. Go out, find this mission and inspire your employees, your customers and all your other stakeholders with it. Your following will be manifold.

When you are doing well, there is ample of space of doing good. Go and understand what is what you do best in your organization. Find a way to apply a tiny portion of time and resources from it. Find a way to transfer this abilily in order to enable those who need this little kick-start before they can get lifted on their own.

That’s something I have just embodied in a recent business plan. In one year down the line I will have to be measured by my actions resulting from the easy part called words.

Inauguration: Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya – connected

We could only get here together. Today was with fullest honesty one of the happiest days of my life. When I started to conceive this project, I had a remote idea of how the picture of its accomplishment would look like. It would look like this.

Highlight: The Girls' first access to the Netbooks

All the pictures of the inauguration here on my Flickr-set. Today we solemnly celebrated in the traditional Indian way the inauguration of something new. This novelty felt like two well crafted pieces of a puzzle came together to form a harmonious whole. One the one side, the phenomenal preparation of the Vatsalya team with setting up the room, installing broadband internet connection and putting tables with chairs in place. From the other side the delivery and installation of the Wipro netbooks. Plug and play. And it just worked. Connected to the internet, connected to view through this window of the word. From Bangalore to anywhere. Therefore, to symbolize these limitless possibilities, I set Wikipedia in English as the home page on each of the 12 browsers.

Hand-Over of Netbooks: Vatsalya Orphanage

We started out in the afternoon with some more technical installation by Sumanth and Arvind. Thanks for taking time out and supporting us with your technology expertise.

Run-up to the Inauguration

It was a special pleasure for me to have my good friend Dirk Schornstein back in Bangalore, also one of the donors for the charity, who couldn’t resist the call from his first visit in December last year when the girls told him for good bye “Come back, Uncle!”. He kept his promise and brought a present which the girls had wished for: The entire collection of Harry Potter in the children’s edition.

Run-up to the Inauguration

Indians truly understand how to elevate such an event onto a spiritual level so that it is perceived and will be remembered as something special. The girls started to get more and more exited …

Run-up to the Inauguration

… when at 4.30 pm we cut the ribbon …

Cutting the Ribbon: Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya

… and lit the holy light with offerings to the God Ganesha, prayers and chanting by the children.

Lighting the Fire: Inauguration

Then nothing could stop the girls, always in groups of 12, to sit down on the chair in front of the computers and put their little fingers for the first time in their lives onto the touchpads and see the pointer move on the screen in front of them. I will never forget their genuine joy and curiosity.

Highlight: The Girls' first access to the Netbooks

I am extremely happy to share these impressions with everybody who contributed to this project, dedicated money, time and moreover trust. In the hope not to forget anybody:

  • The 28 donors around the world who laid the indispensable financial ground.
  • The Vatsalya-team, my dear neighbour and almost sister Shashi as well as the entire board of the association who relentlessly pushed ahead from their side.
  • Wipro for the generous discount of the netbooks and its exemplary professionalism and reliability in each and every step of the process.
  • Petra (=”Petzi”) who did invaluable research work with project coordination along with her husband Jürgen.
  • And last, but not least, the 50 girls from the Vatsalya Children’s Home. Your yearning for a future provided me the momentum forward.

To all of you: This is your day. Thank you.

Good Progress with Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya

Things are starting to fall into place. Today, I am happy to give you an update on a project and gladly include a host of “thank yous” and acknowledgements into a variety of directions which brought us significantly further. As things often go, especially in India, being connected to the right people can make a lot of things happen.

Let me start with proposing the budget allocation for the project. In the beginning I was a bit naive to just think of raising funds only for the computers, whereas there is a whole underlying infrastructure layer beneath in order to create a real functioning “solution”. Hence, the plan is to spend the donations as follows:

Budget Vatsalya Charity

UPS, by the way is the abbreviation for “Uninterrupted Power Supply”, a connected battery system to bridge the frequent power outages in Bangalore. (The spreadshirt above is also live here on Google Docs, select the link “Budgeting” on top of the page.)

As we see, there are some EUR 250 left which we plan to use prudently for some unexpected cost. Either use it for funding another year of broadband internet or as the basis for additional computers once this first solution is in a steady state. Nothing will be wasted to unnecessary expense. Promised.

Now to address with greatest happiness the bricks which have fortunately built upon each other to form the emerging building of our solution:

  • During the “Global India Business Meeting” in June this year in Munich I got to know Mr. Girish Paranjpe, the Co-CEO of the India IT-giant Wipro. I presented our project to him via e-mail and asked if Wipro would be willing to support it with a reduced rate compared to the regular retailing price. As a professional and successful organisation like Wipro works, I got a fast response from Girish. Moreover, a generally positive one along with passing the project on to his colleagues Mr. Ashok Tripathy and Mr. Sankar Pitchaiya. Therefore, I am super-happy to announce that Wipro will deliver its netbook “Wipro e.go 7F3800” to us beginning of October at a special charity rate. Wipro e.go 7F3800
    The notebook contains a couple of cool cutting-edge innovative features. Also: With it comes full- fledged solution with an established customer care-backbone in case of ever anything breaks. Thank you so much, gentlemen from Wipro, for supporting us!
  • Horst Joepen, CEO of Searchmetrics, and former co-founder of Webwasher (later aquired by McAfee), referred me to his former colleague Martin Stecher who granted us a free test-license for the Webwasher. This piece of software is supposed to filter out that sort of stuff from the web which girls between 5 and 15 years need not get in touch with. Thank you very much indeed for your support.
  • I love technology, but I never claimed to be an engineer. So in order to get the IT-infrastructure in the orphanage up and running with setting up a client-server architecture, installing the Webwasher, connecting it to the internet, Sumanth Sudheendra is volunteering us to take this into his precious and experienced technology-hands. Thanks Sumanth for allocating your free time for the good cause.
  • Last but not least, the Vatsalya Orphanage has also been active to set the ground for the advent of the computers. As I just talked to my neighbour Shashi on Saturday: The required fast DSL-broaband internet-connection has been installed by the provider BSNL at a flat-rate. Also, the simple furnishing with tables and chairs is about to arrive these days. Thanks for following up so promptly on all these action items!

Overall, things are looking good at this stage and I am very optimistic. What is going to happen next: We are looking at October 7th as the delivery date for the computers which we will connect and make operational as fast as possible. I will keep you posted.

And once more: Sincere thanks everybody for your support for making this happen :-)

OLPC India fail and Plan B “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”

This is the blog post I had hoped to avoid. For one, as I would have loved to proceed as planned and for second, starting a fight around good purposes is the last thing I ever wanted to get into. Still, in order to proceed with „Plan B“ of our Vatsalya-charity, I need to shed some light why I can’t keep to our initial intentions. These were, just for the record: providing 11 laptops from „One Laptop per Child“ (OLPC) to the Vatsalya Orphanage in Bangalore.

Preparation for the Charity with OLPC India
Sadly, when I thought what all could go wrong in the beginning, the least thing I thought of is what in fact did go wrong. All else went smooth so far: Getting the commitments, rolling the money in (it’s sitting in my bank account waiting to get spent), preparing the orphanage for the computers and so on. Yet, what I can’t deliver are the 11 OLPC computers, because OLPC India is unable to deliver them. By contrast, hereby also acknowledging its achievements, the organization has managed to secure a deal with the Indian government to roll out 250,000 laptops.

I will try not to bore you in a blame-game with details which e-mails were sent at what date and what phone calls were made on which hour, but I can assure you that Petra and I did our homework in getting the facts right BEFORE we started to communicate the project on this blog. At no point in time Mr. Satish Jha, the head of OLPC India, hinted us to any constraints in delivering less than a minimum lot of 100 computers. Through him, for instance, we received the information of the price (Rs. 16,499) including logistics to the desired destination.

OLPC India: Minimum 100 computers per order
However, when we enthusiastically posted our order to Mr. Jha, things started to go downhill as I alluded to in this blog-post four weeks ago. Now, after Mr. Jha unfortunately did not keep to his commitment to let us know how to include the 11 computers into a bigger lot of 100 units, I don’t shy away of sharing with you that I wasn’t particularly impressed by the phone conversation with him.

In the 40 minutes “conversation”, Mr. Jha spoke approximately 39.5 minutes, which to me came more as a lecture (albeit a genuinely friendly one) than the focussed attempt to solve a problem. Mr. Jha’s deep diving into intellectual nuances between the educational concepts of „Dr Negroponte“ vs. “Mr. Sugata Mitra” concluding in polished rhetoric with the well balanced synthesis that those of Dr. Negroponte were superior, was not really what I wanted to hear – lest to start from scratch convincing me of the unparalleled grandeur of the OLPC-computers. Hello? We were way beyond the sales-pitch. We wanted the laptops! Yesterday.

OLPC India: What goes wrong in the „Long Tail“
As a person, and I mean what I say, I find Mr. Jha really sympathetic, but from a managerial standpoint the 40 minutes conversation with such a „small fish“ like me for 11 computers was a waste of time – not for me, but for him. I don’t intend to pretend that I know everything, in particular better, but let me take the opportunity to share my thoughts from my entrepreneurial experience how to improve the obvious shortcomings at OLPC India for the „long tail“. By that I mean a high number of orders, which contain a small number of units that in turn seem economically unfeasible to process, manufacture and deploy one by one. In the phone call, Mr. Jha mentioned rather by the way, that he had “hundreds of other requests for small-scale orders”. I’d consider this an un-served opportunity.

  1. Sustainable communication: Instead of answering the same and again the same questions from long-tail customers, like me why not Mr. Jha start a blog, admitting openly to the problem of delivering small lots, continuously building up an online knowledge-base and having someone in the organization basically sending the right URLs as answers via e-mail?
  2. System support: Why not tie up with one of the IT-pros like Wipro, Infosys or TCS who would for sure allocate a few developers for free (in exchange for becoming an official „partner“) and build a simple, but smart online system. Like on Amazon, you place your order, the system aggregates them, considers geographical issues along a few to be established logistics hubs in India, and gives back a heuristic approximation how long the „waiting time“ will be till the magic threshold of 100 units is reached. Once, the number of 100 per logistic hub has been brought together, the „buyers“ are asked to make the payment and here we are. The rest is basic execution. (I feel one of the overarching problems is anyway that OLPC doesn’t perceive itself in any “business” where they are facing “demand”, “customers” who come with “expectations” which want be fulfilled and all that stuff. Which brings me to point number 3.
  3. Upfront-Capital: If we really, really break the problem down, then it is in fact a one of pre-capitalization. What I mean by that: Having upfront capital to buy, build and put the laptops on stock from where they could be delivered in an instant through a logistics network. I believe there are plenty of „social venture capital funds“ or „social entrepreneurs“ around who would be willing to put capital up-front against some (reduced) return on capital.

Sure, it would mean that there is all of a sudden a profit-component in the equation for somebody. One which would make the difference between dogmatic purity of a non-profit-concept (as Mr. Negroponte explains vividly in one of this TED-talks), yet at the same time loaded with problems as we have them at our very hands VERSUS deliberately blurring the lines to profit and being able to just deliver. To conclude from the philosophical standpoint myself: I can’t avoid the impression that Friedrich von Hayek, the Nobel laureate of the 70’s in economics, was so awfully right. That organizations which are not geared towards profit, tend to become be default inefficient or worse, ineffective.

At least starting with points 1 and 2 would truly start building an organization that is replicable and steadily builds up speed and scale. Point 3 could be part of a later stage in the roadmap. Or as Clay Shirky, author of the must-read “Here comes Everybody” put it last week during his keynote as the SES-Conference:

It’s better to build a working small system and scale it than set-up a big system and try to fix it.

Interestingly enough, I don’t seem to be alone with my impression: Harrie Vollard who runs an amazing charity Making Miles for Millennium as a side-project to his day-to-day job contacted me after finding out about our project through this blog. He pointed me to his blog post “Evaluation & Recommendations for OLPC Organization” which is a worthwhile read. Quote:

The XO is great, but the organization OLPC can be improved. The organization OLPC tries to switch from a pure research organization to a supplier of the XO when they first started to deploy the XO in 2007. However after 1 1/2 years it looks like OLPC still has no business processes in place. The people who work with OLPC have no experience with these business processes and do not know how to organize a nonprofit organization into a streamlined organization that can handle simple orders. After all it is only one product OLPC ‘sells’.

Let me just make this final point which is important before I revert to solving my own problem: Mr. Jha rightly explained that himself and his team have given up lucrative jobs in order to work entirely for free as volunteers for the good cause. Point taken. You have my full respect for this and I’ll over-stretch any benefit of the doubt for you. Yet, given the unfortunate course of action we have faced, I do have issues if such an argument is used to occupy the high moral ground that is supposed make someone immune against general accountability.

OLPC for Vatsalya: Plan B

Back to square. Almost, but from now on just looking ahead. These lines are directed at my dear donors whose trust I have earned and towards whom I will put all of my energy to put a plan into action. Let’s forget about the OLPC laptops, take a step back and rephrase what we jointly want to achieve: Bring computer abilities to young girls from an underprivileged background as part both of their everyday’s life. Both within the framework of a curriculum as well as for free exploration.

Thanks to the very same OLPC-laptops, a new category of computers has emerged in the last, say, 12 months: the netbook. Reduced in processing power and storage, it assumes that a big part of data and applications would be accessed from „the cloud“ on the internet. Roaming around Bangalore looking for alternatives, I stumbled upon „Chroma“, the electronic superstore from TATA, and came across these decent notebooks: NB e-go atom from Wipro for Rs. 19,999.

NB e-go atom

Interestingly, the manufacturer is Wipro, one of the Top 3 Indian software-outsourcing giants who has ventured back into one of its previous territories: hardware. The notebooks come with Windows XP and are fully WiFi-internet-enabled. (Coincidentally, the two available colours red and yellow are super-suitable for girls. What a mess if we had to paint them blue for boys ;-) The sales assistants told me that it would be possible to obtain the required number via cash & carry.

Hence, my request to the donors: Unless there is no objection to this plan B, I would buy these Wipro-netbooks and proceed with everything else as had been put forward within our project. I suggest reducing the number to 10 as we will save on one computer, which had been foreseen for the teachers. (Here we seem to face an unintended advantage, as the teachers are all familiar with Microsoft Windows as opposed to the OS of the OLPC). I am happy to cover the difference in cost of cumulated Rs. 18,500 (EUR 270) so that we can move ahead swiftly.

As with many things, life is a quest of constant adoption. After weeks of passive agony, I now feel relieved that we pulled the plug. More importantly, we can get positive again, as we have reclaimed the course of action for the newly named project „Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya“ into our own hands.

OLPC for Vatsalya-Orphanage: Scope, Focus then Scale

Yesterday, I got this comment to the presentation on Slideshare where I initially outlined the project “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”. I started to answer a few lines and realized that I got drawn into some fundemental considerations which I thought it’s better to share here on my blog. This is the comment as a screenshot, my answer below.

Comment on OLPC Presentation

Thanks for your appreciation of the project. At the same, time I am not convinced that a competitive comparison between “Sugata Mitra” on the one side and “Professor Negroponte” on the other side really addresses the key question. Turning too much to this aspect, in my opinion, distracts the focus from effective deployment of OLPC laptops into a somehow dogmatic debate what in the essence are nuances.

I was surprised to learn yesterday after a phone conversation with Mr. Satish Jha, Head of OLPC India, that there are economic constraints to deliver 11 computers. Therefore OLPC India is trying to bundle at least orders of 100 computers to make it economically feasible. In other countries, the number is rather up to 10,000 minimum units. Point taken, still quite a lot of “foregone demand” in the long tail.

Back to our project at hand: There is no doubt that 50 computers for 50 children are better than 10. This however, means stating the obvious as much as: Everyone will prefer drawing an annual salary of $250,000 instead of $50,000.

The “scarcity of resources” is such a fundamental aspect in economics, that I don’t intend to bore anybody to death detailing it further. In conjunction with the all agreed “law of diminishing returns” we can’t avoid to ask the question: Is 5 times the number of computer with 5 times the capital investment 5 times as effective? I don’t think so. Therefore, after long consideration, I deliberately decided to set this project up in such a manner that we keep it to 10 computers for 50 children (plus one for the teachers to get acquainted.)

Pushing the project ahead, I also started the realize that making this admittedly small-scale project a success, other challenges need to be solved:

  • Bringing broadband internet to the orphanage which is cost effective and does not explode in cost once you come above the in India common monthly data-volume cap (=no flat-rate)
  • Installing some rudimentary furniture for tables and chairs
  • Electricity (it’s there, more rather cabling, so not really a problem)

These adjacent aspects obviously also “scale” with more and more computers, which I had barely included in the funding. (No issues, I’ll get that solved with my own money.) What I learnt as an entrepreneur is following a bold and big vision, but keeping single bits & pieces manageable. The scope of this initial project follows pretty much this path. I don’t rule out, as we move along the leaning curve and finalize this project, to raise additional funds and buy more laptops for the same orphanage.

Given the scenario which is unfolding, we will tightly keep to our initial plan to obtain 11 computers. Mr. Jha yesterday promised yesterday during our phone call that he’ll get back to me in order to let me know if and how he’s able to bundle the 11 computers into a larger lot. First and foremost, this is something we should focus to get solved.

One, for this particular project “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”, but in my opinion also for “hundreds of other requests for small-scale orders to OLPC India” which Mr. Jha mentioned during our conversation.

OLPC for Vatsalya-Orphanage: Meeting the Girls

It is every time a deeply emotional journey to come to Vatsalya for a visit. Today Shashi Malpe, my neighbour and Secretary of the institution took me with her on her almost daily attendances; here she is sitting on her desk interacting with the administrative staff. (The entire picture-set of today’s visit is here on Flickr.)

Shashi Malpe with administation staff

The committed donation have all been received in the bank. I would be happy if I could announce more progress in terms of ordering the OLPC-laptops, but India being India, there are some communication issues with the allegedly responsible for OLPC in the country. I would like to keep this statement as diplomatic as I can and rather work behind the scenes to get the ball finally rolling. Overall, there is not the slightest doubt that we will place 11 computers on the also-yet-to-be-installed desks of the orphanage here:

Upcoming computer Room for OLPC laptops

This room until a few days back had been the dormitory of the orphanage which has been shifted on the other side of the building. Here, a terrace has been repurposed into becoming the new dormitory.

Dormitory of Vatsalya

It is here every morning at 5.30 am that the 50 girls from the age of 5 to 19 years start their day with meditation and prayer before they take responsibility for the cleanliness of their space. After breakfast, school starts at 8.30 am and ends at 3.30 pm – with a lunch break in between. The children take a small rest with tea, before then have another lesson of special schooling with additional teachers from outside. Then homework, dinner and at 10.30 pm the lights go off.

Good bye Picture with the Vatsalya girls

What might sound quite demanding, is certainly a disciplined approach to education. What I always appreciated at Vatsalya, and why I selected this institution for the OLPC-project, that the girls still get their space to be children with dancing, music and painting to play and foster creativity at the same time.

We were happy to announce the OLPC-project to the girls where I felt particularly honoured mentioning my friends from around the world who are supporting this initiative. The girls are really, really looking forward to the arrival of the laptops. I will push as fast as I can to make it happen. Last but not least, a little 1 min-video I put together with the girls to give you a real-life experience. When I see the girls so curious and engaged, then I know that this project is the best thing we could start off.

OLPC for Vatsalya-Charity: We got the Funds!

For the risk of sounding repetitive, I am deeply honoured and humbled about your instant participation which led to the final commitments for our charity “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”. We got the money together, EUR 2869 within 5 days of fund-raising. Stunning! Thank you very much for your support; together we are making it happen.

Vatsalya Bangalore 04

Here the list of all those who walk the talk and have agreed to support me in equipping the Vatsalya Orphanage with 11 OLPC-computers.

Juri Reisner
Martin Wunsch
Rene Seifert
Malte und Tina Krüger
Fabian Seyfried
Dirk Schornstein
Petra Rautenberg and Jürgen Kock
Andreas Hörr
Sascha Mladenovic
Paul Fritze
Simone Bayer
Michael Munz
Alexander and Michaela Erlmeier
Lukasz Gadowski
Nils and Anita Rauterberg
Jan Poerschmann
Daniela Hinrichs
Anju Rupal
Anca Carstea
Philip Brunner
Michael Gebert
Julia Knop

Now it’s on me to deliver based on your support and put the concept into action. As for the next steps I will be writing to all donors tomorrow the details of my bank account along with the request to wire the funds. Again, full transparency here on the donors’ list about the payment-status. Then we are going to order the computers directly from the non-profit organization OLPC which is so far established in India that it will clear customs and take care of logistics within the country. In short, the computers will be delivered directly to the orphanage. The excess of EUR 69 I dare to put aside for some foreseeable work putting the network-infrastructure together to bring a server as well as the WiFi-hotspot to life.

Actually, in order to give you a bit clearer picture (literally) of the organization itself, I aggregated the photos which I have taken so far in this picture-set on Flickr. The one above in this post depicts the stone plate for the inauguration of Vatsalya back in July 1948 by the Maharaja of Mysore. At that time in India one labeled such a foundation “Association for Moral and Social Hygiene”. That’s of course both an obligation and a leitmotiv which we will – through our laptops – proudly catapult into the digital age :-)


Next Page »