SPARC+ Plan at SoitSambu School in Ngorongoro District

Powering Potential has set its sights on installing a SPARC+ computer lab at the SoitSambu Secondary School. SoitSambu is located in the Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region of northern Tanzania, home to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Arusha National Park among other natural wonders.  

The original SPARC lab was part of our three school project in the Ngorongoro District that we completed in July 2014. One of those three schools, Nainokanoka Secondary School, was successfully upgraded to a SPARC+ lab in January 2017.


Nainokanoka Secondary School in 2017

The SoitSambu Secondary School has faced hardship. An accidental fire in 2015 completely destroyed one of the boys’ dormitories, rendering them homeless. Thankfully, there were no injuries, but the year-long rebuild caused delays for other initiatives. This school has more than 700 girls and boys and they continue to flourish with active enthusiasm for their education. We are excited to return there.  


Solar energy system equipment

Our plan involves increasing the number of computers to 20, expanding the solar energy system, upgrading the Raspberry computers and software, and installing the Tanzanian digitized secondary school curriculum from Shule Direct. The staff will also benefit from new training. The arrival of the PEF team always creates excitement among the student body. (PEF is our partner organization in Tanzania.) The students are inquisitive, eager to learn and even volunteer to help!

Every project we undertake is made possible by dedicated individuals like you. Your role in our cause is vital to enhancing opportunities for students lacking resources that we take for granted. Give the gift of education by donating today!

SPARC+ Upgrade at Kabasa & Mekomariro Schools

Last month Powering Potential completed SPARC+ (Solar-Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) upgrades at the Kabasa and Mekomariro Secondary Schools in the Bunda District of Tanzania, Africa near Lake Victoria.

Three Bunda schools received original SPARC labs in 2015 and with this project all three schools now have a SPARC+ lab with 20 Raspberry Pi computers and digital content. In the video below, check out what Dorcas thinks about the new computers at her school.

The Bunda District is one of seven in the Mara region. Home to just under 350,000 inhabitants, it is also the birthplace of Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere. Rolling grasslands and wooded hills dot the landscape for children walking to both Kabasa and Mekomariro for their education. Electricity and other resources may be scarce, but the enthusiasm of the students for learning is abundant. 

Students unpacking computers at Mekomariro
Students unpacking computers at Mekomariro

Upgrading to a SPARC+ lab entails expanding the solar grid, increasing the number of computers in each lab to 20, and providing additional training for the staff. This means a combined total of 900 students at the Kabasa and Mekomariro Schools, girls and boys, will benefit from the programs we provide! Technology education will also give these students a stepping stone towards both higher education and employment in Bunda’s more populated areas, which in turn will raise the standard of living in their native villages.

The schools built additional tables and chairs for their expanded computer lab and the other expenses were funded by Moneygram Foundation, an initiative started by Moneygram to increase educational resources for the world’s children. We thank them sincerely for their generosity in allowing us to expand education opportunities for students in Tanzania.

Founding Director Janice Lathen also highlighted Hon. Stephen Wasira for his participation. “These two SPARC+ upgrades complete a Bunda District project that was started in 2015 with then Minister of State, Hon. Stephen Wasira. The involvement of this high level government official smoothed the path to implementation. We thank him for his facilitation efforts and the Bunda District Council for their support.”

Powering Potential remains committed to a future where accessible education is a reality for remote schools. By utilizing solar power, open-source technology and Raspberry Pi computers, we are bridging gaps in regions which traditional infrastructure has left behind. Our next project is a SPARC computer lab in the Serengeti at the Rigicha Secondary School. 

Our efforts continue because of amazing readers like you who are moved to contribute to our cause. Donate today. Thank you!


Peril in the Amazon during Covid 19

Just before Covid-19 began dominating headlines around the world, Dana Rensi, Powering Potential’s Regional Director for Latin America, was back at work in the San Francisco School located in the Belen District of Iquitos, Peru. A brand new SPARC lab with 25 Raspberry Pi computers had been installed in the school last summer by the Powering Potential team with a grant from Learning Equality.

Dana arrived on February 23, 2020 to train nearly two dozen teachers in the lab on its maintenance and usage. Mid-March marked the official start of the school year in Peru, which meant only in-service meetings among the teaching staff were conducted. It was an opportune time to get the teachers ready. 

Then the shutdown happened.

Martin Vizcara, President of Peru, at the 3/15/2020 press conference

On March 16, the Peruvian government entered a state of emergency after informing the public of a mandatory shut down. Since March 16th was also the first day of school, students across the nation were alerted to stay home. Businesses were shuttered. Waterways, airports, and roads were closed throughout the nation. In less than 24 hours, Iquitos became a ghost town.  

“I’d been watching the Covid issue even before I went back to Peru,” Dana said. “When the shutdown happened, I got online, bought another plane ticket for March 31st even though I already had one for April 15th. Then I immediately started emailing the Fulbright commission in Peru, the U.S. government, and everybody else.”

Along with the government mandate came the nationwide closure of schools and strict quarantine guidelines. A curfew was instituted from 6 p.m. – 4 a.m. Food became scarce at the local markets. Fresh water delivery, a critical service due to the polluted water surrounding Iquitos, suddenly became difficult to acquire. Regulations required officers to arrest and fine people for failing to wear masks outdoors. 

The Belén District in Peru

The shutdown would eventually strand more than 7,150 travelers within Peru’s borders. Of those 7,000, Dana was among the 1,400 Americans facing a global pandemic that was quickly spreading to the jungle. She was sequestered blocks away from the Plaza de Armas de Iquitos and turned her tiny apartment into a command center. Manning two mobile phones and a computer, she began contacting everyone she could regarding the situation. 

“You have to understand something about the situation in Peru,” Dana said. “They don’t really have medical care there. They don’t have Covid tests. They have only one hospital in Iquitos for Covid, but there was an infected nurse. So they had to move everyone and sanitize everything. Their best defense was to lock everything down.”

The Fulbright Commission was among the first of the organizations to respond to Dana’s alert. Representatives there put her in touch with the Peruvian Embassy, which asked her to be a Citizen Liaison Volunteer (CLV). After a background check, the Embassy had her gather information on all U.S. citizens in Iquitos. Dana made a Google Form for people to enter their information and forwarded daily updates to the Embassy. She also found vital information on everything from the availability of medical supplies to viable transportation companies and permits. The Embassy used this data to obtain permission letters enabling these services to work during the quarantine and solidify travel arrangements. Through Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp groups like #StuckinIquitos, Dana also strove to keep everyone calm during the next two weeks. 

Alia Afshar, DAI Director of Project Delivery in the Middle East & North Africa

It was through one of these social media groups that Alia Afshar, DAI Director of Project Delivery in the Middle East and North Africa, got in touch with Dana. In Peru on a spiritual retreat for two weeks to celebrate her birthday, the shutdown stranded Alia and several other tourists at the sanctuary. 

“Dana is, to me, a real hero,” Alia said during a discussion with Powering Potential. “She was frantically working with the authorities. It really blew my mind, and I work in war zones where everything is down to the details.  She did such an impeccable job. ” 

Barbara Land, Executive Director of the Nevada Building Hope Foundation was also doing work in the Peruvian jungle in March. Her organization provides a variety of critical services to remote villages along the Amazon River and had just finished building a new high school for students last October. Barbara would eventually join the #StuckinIquitos group chat regarding her own situation. “I would see Dana telling people to continue working with the Embassy,” Barbara told us. “For people who work down there, we know how wonderful the Embassy is. We became friends that way. She understands the culture.” 

Peru’s shutdown created panic among the tourists. Within a week, throngs of people arrived in Lima with the intent to leave, only to find the airport closed. Entire groups camped out at the air force base waiting in lines that never moved. Others were still stuck in remote lodges without a way to get back to the main squares. Coming back required boats, none of which were allowed on the water. 

It fell to Dana to find boat drivers and transportation services so the Embassy could create letters and permits to ensure their businesses would not be fined for traveling during the quarantine. It would eventually require three permits from the water police to even take a boat for twenty minutes. After this, buses were hastily found and granted permits to pick up travelers from the remote sites on the rivers. Even so, a larger problem loomed: flights. 

With Lima and its airport bombarded by crowds, the Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport in Iquitos was allowed to open. Located only 4.5 miles from the downtown area of the city, it had not serviced international flights for some time. Locals spoke of popular routes to Panama and other regions of South America that had been long discontinued. Despite the Covid-19 crisis, very few there thought this situation would change. Lima, they said repeatedly, was the only way to leave.

Over the course of two weeks, the Embassy negotiated with the Peruvian government for approval regarding a flight. Once this hurdle had been cleared, the next one was asking for a chartered flight from Latam Airlines, the premier carrier for Peru. Through hard work and a touch of the miraculous, a flight plan was finally arranged that would fly directly to Miami. If successful, it would be the first such flight to leave Iquitos in over twenty years. Letters of transit for both river and land travel also had to be obtained from the Embassy for people to make it safely to the airport.

Trees recently planted by Project Amazonas

Don Dean, Tree Committee Member and Board Member of Project Amazonas, had also been affected by the shutdown. He is one of many dedicated individuals working on the conservation and restoration of the Amazon Rainforest. In addition, they reintroduce native species back into their natural habit there. In mid-March, he’d been overseeing a group of undergraduate students from North Carolina when the government went into a state of emergency. He was one of many people to secure a flight home due to Dana’s efforts.

“As Dana mentioned, it was a mess to get out of the country,” Don recounted. “They shut down the streets and rivers. The airports were closed. We were all in limbo after that. Dana took me by the ear, said ‘fill out these forms,’ and just got it done. She worked diligently to get everybody.” 

Alia concurred, further emphasizing the importance of Dana’s contributions. “To be fair, my position was unique — I was at a private sanctuary. Everything was running normally for us, but going to Iquitos for the 24 hours we were there was terrifying. Dana organized transport and a place for us. She worked locally through Peruvians. The confidence level and commitment were just through the roof.  She had printed packets for all of us with permits to travel to the airport. I was in awe.”

Dana Rensi waiting to board the flight to Miami

On March 26th, 2020, 107 Americans left from the airport in Iquitos after health screenings, Dana among them. All wore masks and gloves. Some spoke openly about the people and work they’d left behind. Others stood silent with pensive expressions, fearing the flight would be canceled. Yet the flight and its passengers landed without incident in Miami. 

It would take two additional flights for Dana to return safely to Oregon, but her work didn’t stop when she landed. Even during her self-quarantine, she continued working to gain transportation and flights for others still struggling to get home from Peru. When asked to expound on their feelings at being back on American soil after such ordeals, all of those featured in our story expressed various levels of shock and gratitude.

“Police and military were everywhere in Peru,” Dana explained. “They checked your papers. You were arrested and fined for not wearing a mask. I am shocked that some people are not taking it seriously. I know my connections were what enabled me to help people on the ground. I am really thankful for the U.S. Embassy and the Peruvians. It was a huge operation.” 

Barbara Land & students at the new high school in Ayacucho Village

Barbara had a similar reaction. “Peru is on total lockdown. We got into Dulles airport in the middle of the night and not one person had a mask on. Nobody was taking precautions. That’s the way it was all the way to South Carolina to Phoenix to Reno. I’m still surprised.” She added that those with a calling to help in the Amazon should prepare now. “We all are there to help one child, one person at a time. That’s better than nothing. But if your project is not sustainable, you’re wasting their time. It’s their responsibility to love and respect that jungle and all that lives there. See the world through the eyes of the people you are living with. Do your research. Then join us.” 

“It was humbling,” Alia said of her experience. “Latam Airlines was wonderful and had medical staff there. They took temperatures. It was jarring that there were no quarantine guidelines in Miami or JFK.” She also offered some advice to her fellow Americans. “Being safe will cost us things in the long run. Sure, everybody wants to go back to their old lives, but it’s going to slow down a path to recovery. Remember: there’s no playbook for this.”

“I think the Peruvians were way ahead of the states in terms of preparing and taking action out of necessity,” Don commented. “They could also impose huge fines on people during the quarantine that stick because the authorities attach them to their national identity card. So these are effective deterrents. I understand that. It’s easier to enforce. But it’s all a waiting game now to get back to our work.”

Dana, Alia, Barbara, and Don felt they’d left behind a situation without easy solutions. According to a statement from the United Nations Development Program, the first indigenous leader in Peru tested positive for Covid-19 mere days after the shutdown. In addition to national quarantine protocols, non-residents were immediately restricted from entry into the Indigenous and Territorial Reserves under orders from the Ministry of Culture. Over 2,000 communities also chose self-quarantine measures to further isolate themselves from exposure from tourists. 

Though vital steps have been taken to ensure the health of the Peruvian people, the state of education there remains critical. According to the World Education Blog, MINEDU (the Peruvian Ministry of Education) has created Aprendo en casa as a distance learning initiative for the nation’s students operating through telecommunications companies. Most children in impoverished districts like Belén and remote areas of the jungle, however, do not have computers or the Internet. The children are simply at home without even access to food. For them, the pandemic is a very real struggle for survival.

Dana is currently collaborating with Patty Webster, CNN Hero and Founder of Amazon Promise to address these issues. In a recent letter published on the home page of their website, Patty explained her organization’s commitment to delivering medicine, medical supplies, and infant formula to local hospitals in the fight against the pandemic. Dana is also asking the Peruvian government to release the food stored in the nation’s closed schools to feed the poor, including the children of the San Francisco school whose only meals consisted of those they received during the school day. 

A photo taken by Amazon Promise during a food distribution drive

“I do want to go back,” Dana said. “Powering Potential has the only solar Raspberry Pi computer lab installation in Peru working among the poorest of the poor. Anita Gil Avila is such a dynamic school principal. She’s there day and night. We picked the right person to partner with. I am so grateful to Learning Equality and the other team members of Powering Potential. This is a huge opportunity for the people. They really need our support.” 

If you would like to learn more about the Covid-19 situation in Peru you can follow the latest updates on the website for the Ministry of Health – Peru. We encourage our readers to support Powering Potential’s effort to provide technology education in the Peruvian Amazon when the schools resume regular operations. To donate, click here.


The New SPARC+ Lab at Sazira Secondary School

Thanks to a generous grant of $13,000 from the Collegiate Church Corporation, a private donation by tech entrepreneur Charlie Wood and $3,800 of in-kind services, in October we successfully upgraded the SPARC lab in Sazira Secondary School to a SPARC+ lab of 20 computers! The students have been very excited to see their school receive additional technology.
Social Media Manager Denis Christopher and ICT Manager Neema Lyimo installing additional Raspberry Pi computers
The Sazira Secondary School is located in the Bunda District in Tanzania near Lake Victoria. Our sister organization, the Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), was on-site to complete the expansion of the SPARC lab we initially installed in 2015. Along with more Raspberry Pi computers, PEF expanded the solar grid by adding six 120W solar modules and 7 new @100ah deep cycle maintenance-free batteries. In addition to an offline digital library (no internet required), office productivity software, and a coding program, this new lab also provides access to the digitized four-year Tanzanian secondary school curriculum from SHULE Direct, a Tanzanian company.
The PEF team giving technology training to local teachers
PEF provided a three-day training session on-site with the Sazira Secondary School staff. An ICT teacher also participated fully during the installation process. Impressed by these efforts, the Bunda Town Council sent a letter of appreciation commending our efforts at the Sazira School. The Council has pledged to both maintain the lab and conduct regular site visits to oversee the project.
The New SPARC+ Lab at Sazira Secondary School
Our award-winning SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) labs are currently installed in three schools located in the Bunda District: the Sazira, Kabasa, and Mekomariro Secondary Schools. As we head into 2020, a generous grant from the MoneyGram Foundation is enabling us to implement SPARC+ lab upgrades for the Kabasa and Mekomariro Schools. All three schools have students who will ultimately benefit from the technology education we provide by going on to pursue additional education and employment. The result is a raised standard of living in their home regions, which in turn leads to better health care and resources for generations to come.
The PEF team adding solar panels at Sazira Secondary School
We are passionate about our mission of enhancing education in some of the world’s remote regions. From our pilot expansion into the Peruvian Amazon to our attendance at the United Nations for Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals in Education, we have our eyes set on a future where resource deficits no longer block access to education. As an African Affiliate of the Open Source Initiative, we are also dedicated to utilizing open-source technology in every SPARC lab and giving students the opportunity to take innovation to new heights. These efforts are only possible because of incredible supporters like you. Please join us in our efforts to install SPARC+ labs in other schools this upcoming year by donating today!

PEF Nominated for Energy Globe World Award 2019

Our sister organization, the Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), was 1 of 3 organizations nominated in September for the Energy Globe World Award in the Youth Category for their Educating Through Technology program. PEF was also among 24 organizations known for using cutting-edge technology to solve major environmental issues impacting our world. All nominees were given an all-expense-paid trip to Finland for the Energy Globe World Award Ceremony in Espoo, Finland on November 12 and 13.

Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann founded the Energy Globe Award in 1999. It has now become known as one of the highest environmental awards given to an organization for its efforts. The Award Ceremony itself is responsible for spreading awareness of sustainable projects with missions to protect and conserve existing resources on our planet and/or to find creative ways to utilize renewable energy towards this same goal. This year’s ceremony was live-streamed globally and covered by international media. Nominees are distinguished in five categories of impact: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Youth. The winners in each category also divided a prize pool of $10,000 euros.

This year’s 20th Energy Globe World Award Ceremony began with the Energy Globe Days Conferences on November 12-13th, which included two days of talks given by both nominees and international professionals who have dedicated their lives to environmental causes. After an opening by Prof. Taina Tukiainen, Day 1 included presentations on Sustainable Solutions to Fight Climate Change; Communication for Sustainable Acting; and Water as the Base of Life. Day 2 consisted of presentations on Waste and Sustainable Usage; Energy, Access and Sustainable Usage; and Circular Economies.

Eng. Albin Mathias Fiita, Executive Director of PEF, gave his presentation on Day 1 along with other projects that establish Communication for Sustainable Acting. The talk included highlights of both PEF’s mission to bring sustainable solutions to remote areas of Tanzania, Africa by installing SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) labs in schools lacking vital resources.

“It was a wonderful experience to be at the Energy Globe Award Days,” Eng. Albin Mathias Fiita said after the ceremony concluded. “Although we did not win the trophy, being one of the finalists and attending the Energy Globe Days was a great experience for me and PEF. In the two days of Final Project Presentations, I was able to learn a lot from global sustainable projects presented by fellow finalists from different organizations around the world. The Swahili proverb says “Mkaa Bure si sawa na Mtembea Bure,” meaning that those who travel will always learn new things. I believe our Educating Through Technology program fits well for creating sustainable communities as the program empowers youth through access to quality education by providing technology infrastructure and training to the community, which otherwise would have been impossible. Maneka Gandhi, the chair of the Jury, along with others loved our project for the same reason. I believe this is a good start. I’m looking forward to more!”

Eng. Albin Mathias Fiita holds the plaque given to PEF

The Awards Presentation Ceremony began after all presentations concluded, bringing together an outstanding array of global talent in various innovative industries. Maneka Gandhi, the Former Indian Minister and Chairwoman of the International Jury gave her greetings to the audience. Next, each category was announced with the nominees taking their place on stage to receive a ceremonial plaque and recognition for their extraordinary efforts to make the world a better, cleaner place. PEF shared the stage for the Youth Category with two other nominees, UWICER for its Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES) project in Bhutan and the Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA) for its MEGA Game project.

The 2019 Energy Globe World Award winners & nominees

The winners of the 2019 Energy Globe World Award are as follows: Bioestibas SAS, Columbia (Earth), Go-Ahead London, UK (Fire), NGO Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education & Culture, Morocco (Water), Hubert Palfinger Technologies GmbH, Austria (Air), a group of Finnish Companies: Fortum, ST1, Neste, HSY, Finland (Air), Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA), Moldova (Youth). A complete list of winners and nominees can be found here.

The efforts of PEF, which are supported by Powering Potential, are possible because of generous readers like you. We encourage you to make this cause your chosen charity for the holiday season of 2019 and help us continue giving the gift of technology education to schools lacking vital resources. To donate, visit here.

A New SPARC lab in the Peruvian Amazon

After more than a decade of dedicated work in Tanzania, we turned our sights to the Peruvian Amazon this summer with a pilot expansion of our award-winning SPARC (Solar-Powered Access to Raspberry Pi Computing) program. The San Francisco Rio Itaya School in Iquitos, Peru is now home to a brand new lab equipped with 15 Raspberry Pi desktops for student use.

Peru, like Tanzania, is a fascinating country with an amazing cultural scene. A full two-thirds of the country is covered by the Amazon Rainforest. This alone would make Peru a serious destination for many travelers to explore, but it also houses additional wonders like the Andes Mountains, the Sechura Desert, Lake Titicaca, and Rainbow Mountain.

Yet all this natural beauty comes with a high price. Though this country is the 6th largest producer of gold, some areas of Peru are severely underdeveloped and unsuited for large-scale industrialization. With the Amazon River surrounding its borders and backed by the thick canopy of the Amazon rainforest, remote areas have survived conditions that almost defy description. 

The lower part of the Belen District in Iquitos, Peru

Belén, often called “the floating city,” is one such region. It is one of four districts in the metropolitan city of Iquitos, which is known as the largest city in the world that is accessible only by air or water.

The people of Iquitos are ever watchful of the river and all too aware of its power. “La langosta dormida es llevada al arroyo” is a popular Peruvian proverb among boatmen meaning “The sleeping lobster is carried away by the stream.” They recognize that the same river giving life to the rainforest can exact a very real human toll.

For these reasons and more, Iquitos presented unique challenges for Powering Potential. Expanding into a South American country also required expertise in Spanish, the educational setting and the culture.

The San Francisco Rio Itaya School

San Francisco School is built two stories up on stilts because flooding is an annual event in the lower section of Belén, which is located on the floodplain of the Río Itaya. Most of its 65,00 inhabitants live in homes constructed from basic materials that are on stilts or built to float on the river. Children play and swim in contaminated water used for drinking, laundry, and waste disposal. Most people have parasites and dwellings are often swept away by floodwaters made increasingly worse by deforestation practices and the resulting erosion. The rainy season has also been problematic and longer in duration in the last two decades. 

Under the leadership of Director Anita Gil Avila, San Francisco School is the pride of the neighborhood. As our team worked on the lab, the children practiced marching and singing for the national holiday celebration to be held there. A week later, another community gathering celebrated the 40th anniversary of the school. The building is used for both primary and secondary school. Younger students attend from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm and older ones in the afternoon. We watched students arriving and leaving on homemade wooden boats (as we did, also). Most wore uniforms and all carried smiles.

PPI Management Team Members V. Ena Haines and Rich Segal, Ph.D. with PPI Volunteer Joanna Segal (center) approaching the San Francisco School

Dana Rensi, PPI Regional Director, Latin America led the Management Team pilot expansion. An Educational Media Specialist in Ashland, Oregon and a recipient of a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, she previously spent a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Iquitos. After receiving a grant from The Foundation for Learning Equality, she returned to the San Francisco Rio Itaya School to install our first SPARC lab on the South American continent.

Dana Rensi, PPI Regional Director, Latin America with the installation grid

PPI Management Team Members V. Ena Haines, retired Director of Information Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University and Rich Segal, Ph.D., Computer Scientist at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center were also on-site to help with the installation. Joined by PPI Volunteers Joanna and Annie Segal, this dream team completed the lab with record speed while interacting with students eager to get a first glimpse of the computers.

PPI Management Team Member Rich Segal, Ph.D. in the new SPARC lab

The SPARC lab captivated students and teachers alike during its construction. No doubt it will continue to do so as the student body begins to utilize the wealth of digital content now available for use. Dana will spend two months this fall working with teachers and students, particularly using Learning Equality’s interactive Kolibri product to support one primary and one secondary grade in math. The lab also features a Pi-oneer, which is a 512GB RACHEL Pi, an AAXA P300 Projector and a portable battery pack combined for use as an audiovisual teaching tool. This kit allows teachers to use material from the virtual library in any classroom in the school.

PPI Management Team Member V. Ena Haines with a student

This incredible success would not be possible if not for the generosity and compassion of readers like you. We encourage you to learn more and get involved with our efforts in the Peruvian Amazon! 

To donate: 

A SPARC+ Upgrade for Sazira Secondary School in Tanzania

In the past, we’ve talked about our efforts in the Sazira Secondary School in Tanzania near Lake Victoria. We’re committed to completing an expansion upgrade to their computer lab by September of this year. Thanks to a generous grant of $13,000 from the Collegiate Churches of New York and $3,800 of in-kind services, we need only an additional $6,300 to complete the project. Would you help by making a contribution?

We’ve been working for years with co-ed government secondary schools to solve the lack of electricity, internet and educational resources with our award-winning programs. Our Educating Through Technology programs include SPARC (Solar-Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) computer labs and the Pi-oneer, an innovative teaching tool that combines a mobile projector with a Raspberry Pi computer. Both create a technology infrastructure within the schools and enables them to offer the national curriculum for Information and Computer Studies to their students. In addition, we provide schools with an offline digital library of educational resources along with technology training for teachers and students.

The SPARC lab at Sazira Secondary School

We have also sought to give students in these regions a foundation on which to build their lives. After receiving a school background with improved resources and technology literacy, these students often go on to pursue advanced education and employment opportunities. A full 60% of students surveyed at our beneficiary schools reported continuing their education while 57% were able to secure solid employment. With the generosity of our corporate sponsors, compassionate donors and individuals like you, we will continue to increase those numbers.

Sazira Secondary School, Kabasa Secondary School, and Mekomariro Secondary School are three schools in the Bunda District equipped with our solar-powered computer labs. Our plans for the Sazira Secondary School will take the school’s current SPARC lab of five computers and transform it into a SPARC+ lab equipped with twenty. This installation will impact 822 girls and boys aged 14-18 and 37 teachers. As one class graduates and another begins, more students will benefit from the services we provide.

Solar panels at Sazira Secondary School

As an international non-profit, we remain committed to our mission of enhancing education and stimulating the imaginations of students in developing countries. We also respect and incorporate the values of the local culture, emphasizing cooperation over competition, community over the individual, modesty over pride and spiritually over materiality. Combined with our dedication to utilizing solar power and open source technology in every lab we install, we feel our cause is a worthwhile charity for our patrons.

Join us in our efforts to continue expanding the resources available to the Sazira Secondary School by donating today!

Founding Director Attends United Nations Meeting

We are delighted to announce that our Founding Director Janice Lathen attended a high-level side-event on “Relevant, Equitable and Inclusive Quality Education for All: an Imperative for the 21st Century” during the review of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) at the High-level Political Forum 2019 in New York at the United Nations Headquarters on July 15, 2019! Hosted by UNESCO, the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, the event was held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber and included a panel discussion.

UNESCO, also known as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has programs that are vital to the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030. They work alongside the SDG-Education 2030 Committee, which is tasked with the coordination and assessment of SDG4 and other aspects of this incredible work. The Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning is new to the trio having been established in January 2019 for the purpose of outreach to make education a priority to the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and other UN organizations. This body is currently chaired by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, the Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway to the United Nations.

The Trusteeship Council Chamber

Transforming lives through education through the guidelines set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the main topic of the event’s 90-minute panel discussion, which included direction on how to generate global commitments towards inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all populations. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, gave opening remarks. Statements were then given by Ministers of Member States and representatives from the European Union and the World Bank. Government, private sector, civil society, and youth representatives were also in attendance.

One of the most engaging speeches was given by Maggie MacDonnell, the 2017 Global Teacher Prize Winner. Additional topics included equity and inclusion among populations, the interconnection between global communities, and providing the necessary life and work skills to those same communities. Afterward, Ms. Lathen spoke with Ms. Azoulay, who suggested that Powering Potential contact her office for possible funding opportunities.

Maggie MacDonnell

“I am always inspired to attend events at the United Nations,” Ms. Lathen said. “I was especially grateful for the opportunity to meet the Director-General and introduce Powering Potential to her. We hope for an opportunity to collaborate with UNESCO in the future.” 

We would like to thank UNESCO, the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning for both the invitation and experience!

Celebrating 10 Years with Segal Family Foundation

On June 5th, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI) held a fundraising celebration to commemorate its 10-year partnership with Segal Family Foundation (SFF) at the NoMad Studio in Manhattan. Over fifty guest were treated to an evening of Tanzanian culture, music, dance, and cuisine. Barry Segal, Founder of Segal Family Foundation, attended with his wife Dolly, two daughters, Sharon Harrison and Lisa Green, his son Rich Segal and wife Joanna, and son Brad Segal. Cher-Wen DeWitt Director of Partnerships for Segal Family Foundation also attended. 
Curious on Tanzania Founder Justa Lujwangana

Curious on Tanzania Founder Justa Lujwangana was on hand to get the guests dancing to vibrant African music. Afterward, she served Tanzanian cuisine from recipes in the cookbook, Taste of Tanzania, by author Miriam Malaquias. PPI Secretary James Allen and PPI Treasuer Greg Obenshain personally made two dishes, Kachumbari Salad and Coconut Peas. Other flavorful dishes included Chicken Makange, Plaintain Futari, Beef Bokoboko, and Vegetable Samosa. Along with complimentary wine and soda, a classic Tanzanian cocktail, “The Dawa,” was also available to the guests for a small donation. The Dawa is a mixture of lime juice, honey, and vodka. Dawa also means “medicine” in Swahili.

Greg Obenshain introduced Powering Potential Founding Director Janice Lathen. She spoke about the history of the relationship between PPI and Segal Family Foundation, which began in the organization’s infancy. A certificate was then presented to founder Barry Segal.

Barry Segal with Janice Lathen

Mr. Segal later gave a statement about Segal Family Foundation’s continuing involvement with PPI: “We at Segal Family Foundation have been proud to not only partner with Powering Potential—but to count them among friends. Their team has taken on the challenge that Tanzanian students face disproportionate inequity of access to educational resources. A decade of committed work has brought technology skills and learning materials to thousands. Those are, in our book, thousands of milestones worthy of celebration.” 

A RACHEL-Plus system was also on display to showcase new technology being used next month to launch Powering Potential’s award-winning SPARC Lab program in a second country (Peru), led by a Fulbrighter. With their personal devices, guests were able to log onto the RACHEL content and explore the educational resources.

The Silent Auction was a success, selling all but a single item. Greg announced the winners. Guests received their prizes with both humor and candor while expressing thanks at being a part of the celebration.

Special thanks to Josh Apter and Peter Olsen of the Manhattan Edit Workshop and Champion Hamilton, Founder of Champion Eye Media, for offering pro-bono services in videography and photography to cover the event.

The Segal Family (L to R): Rich, Barry, Dolly, Sharon, Brad, Lisa

Event Coordinator Georgia Allen was thrilled. “The volunteers were fabulous. Everybody pitched in and just did beautifully.”

Part of the proceeds of $8,400 will go towards upgrading the Sazira Secondary School to a SPARC+ Lab, which will impact more than 800 students in rural Tanzania. And part will go toward keeping the lights on at Powering Potential Inc. Last month, the Collegiate Churches of New York awarded PPI a $13,000 grant for this project. Rick Harper who represented Collegiate Churches also attended the event.

“It was so heartwarming to spend an evening with Powering Potential donors and Segal Family Foundation members,” remarked Founding Director Janice Lathen. “Moyo wangu unaruka kwa furaha!”    (My heart is jumping with happiness!)

Thank you donors for supporting our cause!