It’s Never About the Phone…

Last night, the doorbell rang, just once. Which means either the neighborhood kids were engaged in a spirited game of ding-dong-ditch, or a package got dropped off on the doorstep. I opened the door and found a bundle of joy waiting for me – a donor had given me the heads up that a batch of 4 smart phones would be delivered and there they were. All in OtterBox Defender cases, ready to travel with me on my next Kenyan trip. It’s a whole lot easier to get phones into Kenya than it is to get laptops into the country. Plus phones and tablets are portable, less prone to damage (especially with OtterBox Defender cases!).

I do get just as excited when packages show up with soap, shampoo, lotion and conditioner from people who collect those miniature items during hotel stays, or when it’s a collection of adhesive bandages, OTC medicines, herbal teas, and supplements. Or when it’s children’s books or DIY home improvement books. But used smart phones and tablets have a longer lasting affect for the people of Kenya. Let me explain. 

A phone is never just a phone in Kenya. It’s your bank. And it doesn’t even require an app, thanks to the Kenyan m-Pesa system which has been in widespread use in Kenya since 2007. With a simple text, you can send money to the grocer, the mechanic, the guy who just gave you a ride – even pay school tuition and pay for the laborer who planted your seedlings. You don’t need a smartphone to use m-Pesa.

A smart phone expands the world in other ways. It gives the phone owner access to the internet; hooked up to any wi-fi spot, they can download courses (even free ones), take tests and watch how-to videos. They can add an email address and apply for work at home and abroad, and correspond with people worldwide who might have information that’s helpful to make their project even more sustainable. They can take pictures and videos to share what’s going on with the projects we support. And they can send us those videos quickly and easily.

Weight limits mean we’re restricted in what we can bring into the country without paying extra luggage charges. Right now we’re especially looking for a few more smartphones, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, latex gloves, children’s vitamins, Emergen-C packets, organic Traditional Medicinal teas (throat coat, gypsy cold care and breathe easy) and boxes of individually wrapped hand sanitizer clothes (hand sanitizer bottles don’t stay sanitary very long). We’re looking for books with science experiments, beginning computer coding projects and easy readers for children. If you’ve got gifts you think might be a good fit, send us an email, and include pictures if you can of any books, so we can give you a thumbs up. Then we can either give you mailing instructions to send directly to Kenya, or you can ship them here for us to take with us (or you can pack them in your luggage when YOU come with us…hint, hint!).