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!

Shule Direct Installation

“There are a lot of materials from Shule Direct and RACHEL. We can create our notes even when the teachers are not available. I would like to be an engineer and use computers to design buildings.” – Veronica Boniface, Form Two (ninth-grade) student at Welwel Secondary School in rural Tanzania

Veronica Boniface and her Welwel classmates are now engaging with Shule Direct learning tools across 14 subjects, augmenting the classroom materials (view content here).

The students access this newly installed digital content on Raspberry Pi computers powered by solar panels, part of the Powering Potential SPARC+ program. The Shule Direct study tools expand on the RACHEL offline digital educational content, which includes Khan Academy videos, Wikipedia articles, coding programs and many other resources.

The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF) – Powering Potential’s sister organization in Tanzania – completed implementation over a three-day period in February. The PEF team also provides on-site assistance and troubleshooting to ensure the effective operation of these solar-powered computer systems. In addition, the team conducts extracurricular training to help Welwel students explore the technology.

This is the impact of Powering Potential – nurturing students’ natural curiosity and passion to grow through access to computers and rich digital educational materials.

Onward and Upward

SPARC+ Installation Enhances Education at Endallah School

Inspiring Students to Learn, Grow and Imagine

Endallah Secondary School was recently upgraded from Powering Potential’s SPARC program to SPARC+. The basic SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) program was installed at Endallah in 2012 and included a solar-powered computer lab and offline digital educational content.

The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF) – Powering Potential’s sister organization in Tanzania – led the SPARC+ installation, consisting of 15 additional computer systems (for a total of 20) and an upgraded solar-power system.

With the Powering Potential SPARC+ program’s expanded resources, Endallah instructors can now teach the Tanzania Information and Computer Studies (ICS) curriculum to stimulate students’ creativity and help advance the country’s national development goals.

Endallah Secondary School provides education to students ages 14 to 17. This co-educational community school serves 458 students in Endallah Village within the Karatu district.

Installing additional solar panels
Completing the Endallah SPARC+ installation!

PPI’s Development Director Visits Schools in Tanzania

Earlier this year, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI) founder Janice Lathen presented me (Lydia Sierra) with a generous offer. She wanted to know if I would be willing to represent PPI at the Segal Family Foundation Conference in Kenya. If I agreed, I would also be able to stop by Tanzania to visit a few of the public schools where Powering Potential has installed SPARC (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) Labs.

I’d never even had a passport, and now I had this amazing opportunity to travel halfway around the world! Of course, I said yes. I’d been working with Janice for a while, and I knew it would be incredible to see firsthand the award-winning SPARC Labs.

When I settled in Arusha, I was met by Elibariki Magnus, a soon-to-be college graduate who had attended a PPI administered 5-month training program in 2011 at a school with a SPARC Lab. On a car ride to the first PPI school, we had a chance to talk about how PPI’s programs had affected his life.

“I am a product of Powering Potential,” Elibariki said. He explained that his brother works for PPI’s Tanzanian sister organization, the Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), and said he hoped he would be able to work for them himself someday.

“I have found my calling with my love for computers. I would have been a farmer if it had not been for this experience,” he said.

He told me that he had been raised in a rural village. Shortly after he was born, his mother had carried him into the fields with her so she could watch him while she worked growing the food that would keep their family alive. When he would cry, she would take a short break to breastfeed him before going back to hoe their plot.

I was astonished and touched by his story. He seemed so grateful for the opportunities created by Powering Potential’s work, and I felt truly blessed to have played my small part in it.

Over the next three days, we visited the Potential Enhancement Foundation’s office and Welwel and Endallah, two public secondary schools. From the moment I stepped onto the campuses, I was amazed by how smoothly everything operated. Every student was clean, polite, and well-spoken. Their uniforms were spotless, and the classrooms were pristine. And the administration and staff were unanimously warm and welcoming.

PEF Community Relations Manager Elitumaini Rweyemamu was one of my guides for these visits. It was slow getting anywhere with Elitumaini because he seemed to recognize every teacher and student and took the time to check in on each one individually. It was a joy spending time with him, and a joy to hear so many students vehemently express their love for computers. The passion created by the SPARC labs is infectious!

Help spread this passion by making a tax-deductible donation to Powering Potential this holiday season.


Visitors Inspired By Our Work

“I’m extremely inspired by what PPI (Powering Potential Inc.) is doing. It’s an enormous benefit for the kids to have access to technology. There’s no question that having this access will only enhance their education and their overall knowledge of the world.” — Tyana Kurtz, visitor to Welwel Secondary School in Tanzania.

Welwel is a government-administered co-ed public school located in Tanzania’s northern Arusha region.

In 2011 Powering Potential installed a SPARC lab (Solar Powered Access to Raspberry Computing) for Welwel, and for seven years its students have been enjoying access to PPI’s award-winning digital educational program.

Tyana’s daughter and nephew at Welwel School

In August 2018, Powering Potential friends Dana and Bruce Freyer visited Tanzania with their family. During their trip, they had the opportunity to visit Welwel School. We spoke with their daughter, Tyana, to get her impressions.

Welwel Secondary School

“I was impressed by how committed the Tanzanian students are to their education. Some of them have to wake up before the sun is up to walk several miles to school. They really appreciate what they have,” Tyana said.

“Overall, we were impressed by how clean and well-organized the school was. The students were neatly dressed in uniforms and spoke English very well.”

“I knew they would not have access to the same things our children have in the United States, but to see the school and the students front and center, firsthand, was very eye-opening,” she continued.

During their visit, Tyana and her family stopped by Welwel’s SPARC lab and had a chance to talk with some of the students and teachers. Many of the students were very excited to meet Americans, and they had many questions about what life was like in other parts of the world.

“The school can’t even afford to provide lunch, so the students’ families will bring food whenever they can. Many times, students will not be able to have lunch, and will go hungry for the entire day. That surprised me.”

A sign on Welwel’s campus

Tyana expressed gratitude that her husband, Scott, and children, Zachary (13) and Sydney (11), were with her during the visit, and said that she was thankful for the opportunity to see what life was like in other parts of the world.

She also took time to appreciate the similarities. “When we visited the science lab, my son pointed out that he had done similar experiments in the US,” she went on to say. “Welwel’s lab has the same equipment, but much of it is either broken or in very limited supply.”

Scratch@MIT Conference

Philip Colligan, CEO Raspberry Pi Foundation and Simon Mtabazi, Tanzanian Educator at Scratch@MIT Conference.


The Potential Enhancement Foundation (PEF), Powering Potential’s Tanzanian partner was invited to attend the Scratch@MIT Conference on July 26-28, 2018. PEF was one of 40 groups selected to present from a pool of hundreds of applicants. “It was an honor for us to go and talk about the work we are doing,” said Simon Mtabazi who represented PEF. He described meeting the CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation as one of the highlights of the conference. “He was really interested in the work we are doing and to hear about the challenges that we face. He asked us to work with their team and let them know how our initiative is going.”

Mitchel Resnick, the leader of the Scratch team at MIT, also stopped by PEF’s table to look at the poster presentation: “[he] came to the booth and we talked about the Pi workshop, teaching Scratch in Ngorongoro District in Tanzania, and the challenges we are facing. We talked about Scratch and an upcoming software update coming out for an online version but we need an offline version. I learned they are working very hard to make the offline version and to translate it into Swahili.”

Mitchel Resnick, Scratch Team Leader, and Simon Mtabazi at Scratch@MIT Conference, July 2018


Simon describes Scratch as “an educational software made for children to understand and play with. But Scratch is also just like Facebook and WhatsApp… [it] has created a Science, Technology Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) community where children and anybody who is interested in learning can share, network, meet people, talk about ideas, and talk about projects on that platform.” Simon emphasized that one of the crucial strengths of Scratch is that it is accessible offline. “We struggle a lot with learning material and connectivity in Tanzania.”

An interesting takeaway and unexpected resource from the conference “was being told by educators from all over the world who attended the MIT conference that we can try to use many online activities even with limited connectivity.” Simon also stressed that Scratch is free and open-source, “so contributing to it, and also distributing it widescale, becomes really easy.” All of the Raspberry Pis used by Powering Potential and PEF “come preloaded with Scratch on them…it’s so light to run and such a powerful tool for teaching.” For Simon it is the philosophy behind the software that sets it apart: “Scratch has evolved from just a tool for learning and teaching into a tool for sharing, a tool for playing, and a tool for storytelling.”