Laptops for Nepali schools

Seven years ago we went trekking with our son Barney and daughter Chloe through the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunaan, China. We marvelled at how as travellers we were able to communicate with the outside world.

The photo below shows Barney with his Blackberry high above the mighty Yangtze River, conferencing ‘on the hoof’ with colleagues in Beijing. The photo opposite of all our mobile communication devices was taken at the Halfway Cafe in the gorge and features in my book ‘Digital Nations in the Making‘, published in 2006, on the uses of technology with adult learners.

Yesterday provided an exciting follow up to all this, as we met up with Chloe and her partner Henry at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. She had stopped over in London on her way from Seattle to Katmandhu in Nepal, where she plans to set up a technology project with an initial three primary schools.

Fortunately Barney has helped here by arranging for Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE:OWW), the online travel company in Chicago where he works, to donate ten reconditioned Thinkpad laptops. These are ideal for piloting this learning through technology scheme in the high mountains of Helambu.

We ourselves had already transported five of these laptops across from the US two weeks ago and Chloe brought a further five with her.

The Nepali partners in the project will include two of Chloe’s students whom she taught in 1993 at the village school in Shermathang (3,000 m). They now work for local NGOs there and are keen to explore with the schools and children the environmental and sustainability issues which affect upland communities in the Himalayas. The laptops provided by Orbitz Worldwide will be of particular help for the teachers.

The photo above shows Chloe yesterday with her iPad, displaying a picture she had taken 19 years ago of a young girl at the school, sowing seeds brought from the UK. It will be useful as an information resource as they visit the different schools.

There’s plenty to organise for the project like ensuring the children carry out a census in each area and checking that each of the schools has reliable electricity. Internet connectivity is another hurdle to overcome – a problem familiar for adult education bodies in the UK even now.

The challenges facing the project are considerable which is why the New York based Explorers Club – where Chloe is one of the youngest members – has agreed to loan one of its coveted flags for the expedition.

“Does everyone get one”, I asked her. “Oh no”, she replied casually, “you have to put up a good case. Best known perhaps is the flag, which Neil Armstrong took to the moon. He’s one of our members you know.”

The photo opposite shows Chloe and Henry displaying the flag at the Wellcome Collection. If you are interested in finding out more, making a donation for the project or helping in some other way, drop me a note at

Our thanks to the Wellcome Collection and staff for their help and provision of space for us to meet and plan arrangements for the project.

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