Saturday, December 17, 2011

Message from Advisory Board Member

My name is Scott Morgan and I've been privileged to serve as an Advisory Board member since the inception of Powering Potential and I want to bring your attention to some of the amazing work and accomplishments of Powering Potential during 2011.

Janice Lathen, Founding Executive Director, has done an extraordinary job of building the profile of Powering Potential. In 2011, Janice met with Ambassador Maajar, Tanzanian Ambassador to the US; Minister Wasira, a Minister of State in the President’s Office; Mr. Mlaki, former director of the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology; Dr. Kawambwa, the Minister of Education; and the President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete himself!

Janice’s tireless efforts to network and build relationships are paying huge dividends! At a meeting at the Ministry of Education, Janice was asked if she would be willing to join a team of people devising technology solutions for improving education across the country, as well as set up a Powering Potential demonstration computer lab at the Ministry. Ambassador Maajar has invited Powering Potential to partner with the Hassan Maajar Trust to improve Tanzanian schools. And finally, Janice is continuing her discussions with Tanzanian government officials to secure funding for Powering Potential.

In her most recent trip to Tanzania Janice concluded a five-month technology training course certifying 23 high school graduates to be Powering Potential Technology Trainers, installed The Technology Tent—a solar energy system and five computers with embedded educational content, and commenced technology training at two more secondary schools.

The beauty and genius of Powering Potential is that it builds knowledge experts and trainers from within to exponentially train more and more students. I have been to Tanzania and met some of the teachers and students whose lives have been changed by Powering Potential. While words escape me to adequately describe what Powering Potential means for so many students, I can surely tell you that one look into the eyes of any Powering Potential participant and you will see the pure joy of having the opportunity to learn. As Samson Goodluck, a Technology Tent graduate, put it, “Now I see the way to pass in my life.”

Janice has taken a simple idea and in less than six years, turned it into a superbly managed, stunning example of a small non-profit that exists to change young lives.

As we approach 2012, we have laid the groundwork for a new level of growth. The demand is palpable, the stage for expansion is set, the players are in place—and we need you to join us.

With a 2012 budget of $150,000, we only have commitments of $45,000.

Nothing can be more satisfying then a gift to change a child's life.

Please help us to meet our 2012 budget so that Powering Potential can continue to grow and serve young people, to give them opportunities that would otherwise never be possible.

As Janice often ends her emails:

If you want to go fast, go alone
If you want to go far, go together
              ----- African proverb

Join us and let’s go together to make 2012 a successful and empowering year to bring technology and education to young people in Tanzania through the power of Powering Potential.

To donate online, click here
To donate with a check, please make payable to ICSEE-Powering Potential and mail to:

Powering Potential
PO Box 230913
New York, NY 10023

ICSEE (International Collaborative for Science, Education and the Environment) TIN: 22-3158263 is a 501(c)3 non-profit public charity and serves as fiscal sponsor for Powering Potential. Donations to ICSEE-Powering Potential are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

With warmest wishes for the holiday season and New Year,

Scott W. Morgan
Powering Potential Advisory Board

Monday, December 5, 2011

Danger Along the Way

After bidding adieu to the Powering Potential people and programs in Karatu, Moody (a entrepreneur with a shuttle service) and I began the two hour drive to Arusha. There had been a huge rainfall the night before and it created some serious problems along the way. At one point we had to shut off the car engine and be pushed through the water by some Maasai men who were out in force to help with the crisis.

A few days after our journey there was another torrential downpour causing flash floods which completely washed away the road making it impossible for a car to pass.

Technology Tent Training in Action

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Now I See The Way To Pass In My Life"

After completing Powering Potential's five-month technology training course, four high school graduates were chosen, among a class of 23, to become Technology Tent Trainers. Severine and Happy began teaching at Welwel Secondary School on Nov. 14, and Samson and Theresia began teaching at Florian Secondary School on Nov. 21. 

Samson Goodluck:

Theresia Christopher:

Severine Herman:

Happy Mashinga:

Below are a few emails I've received from them.

From Severine, after completing the technology training course in preparation for teaching:

Hello Madam how are you,On my side I am fine and my fellow also.
It is long time since we started  our course here at Banjika secondary school, we  are very happy to get Experience about computer and now we are able to teach other people about computer.
My self I was enjoy our lesson and I was got more experience.So madam Thank you very much to started this program and to help them to got this knowledge.
My self I am ready to teach  if you give me a chances.
Ahsante sana madam kwa kutuwezesha katika masomo.Always we are remember you for give as this effort.And we also say thanks to teacher Albin Mathias for more cooperation and other teachers.  Ahsante sana. 
Best  Wishes.     

And this from Severine after having taught for two weeks at Welwel:

Hello madam how are you,
I am fine and we are going well with our lesson.Teachers and Students enjoy computers.
Madam my self I am enjoying to teach them and I would like to say Thanks you very much for giving me this chances hear at welwel secondary school to teach them and we understand me and happy very well.And also I would like to say Thank you very much for poweringpotential to help them to know this technology and Installed many computers in different part of the world because people enjoying this program.And also I say Thanks for those who donate money for us and also solar power in order to avoid loss of power rather than Electricity so! that is a good way to use solar.
Asanteni sana kwa kutuwezesha na sisi tumefurahi sana. Karibu tena.
Thank you very much  madam.
Best Wishes.    

From Samson, who like Theresia, is living at the Florian School because it is 20km from town and there is no practical way for them get to work each day:
My name is Samson Goodluck,i like to gives special thanks to madam Janice Lathen for her hard work she done to me and also i like to thanks all who donated to contribute for the computers,solar and also who contribute to my wages/expenses,also special thanks to Powering Potential at all, i says that i don't have anything to pay but the God knows what to pay for yourselves.Now i see the way to pass in my life,i like to tell all who help me to continue with this spirit.

Samson is his room at Florian:

Theresia, in the black skirt, with her roommate at Florian:

Please wish them luck as they embark on their new careers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Florian Secondary School Installation

The day after the Welwel installation (see prior post) the crew moved to Florian Secondary School and did the same thing there. Florian is in Endamariek village which is 20 kilometers from Karatu town. Florian is an O level (Ordinary) and A level (Advanced) high school offering Forms I-VI (grades 8-13).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Welwel Secondary School Installation

Below are photos of the Powering Potential solar and computer wireless network installation at Welwel Secondary School (grades 8-11) in Karatu town, Tanzania on November 8. Karatu is the name of the district (population 200,000) and the name of the town which is referred to as Karatu town (population 20,000). 

Graduates of our Technology Tent five-month training course were invited to participate for some hands-on experience. We will hire these graduates for future installations as we expand to other schools.

A solar lesson from the solar fundi in the blue lab coat:
Fundi is a Swahili word for skilled person.

Installing trunks for the DC electrical wires:
Our computers and monitors run on DC not AC, saving about 30% electricity.

Fun on the roof with the solar panels:

Before the installation was even complete, word was out and the Welwel students (in blue sweaters) were in the computer lab using the computers:

As you can see, the first thing they like to do is change the desktop background:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Minister of Education and Vocational Training

Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa, the Minister of Education and Vocational Training, called me on November 8th to ask if I could meet with him in Arusha the next day.
We met in the Jakaya Kikwete Presidential Suite at the Kibo Palace Hotel for one hour. He had just come from escorting Prince Charles and Camilla around to schools in Arusha and after our meeting he was returning to bid them adieu at the airport. I felt so honored that he squeezed me in between royalty!

We discussed our programs and I showed him the RACHEL educational content we install on the Powering Potential computers. I played a video for him which explains the balancing of chemical equations. After a minute or so, I made a move to go on to another topic and he stopped me so he could watch more.

When I return to Dar es Salaam at the end of the month, I will meet again with Mr. Ponera (photo below), Director of ICT at the Ministry, to discuss how Powering Potential can best serve the objectives of the Ministry. He is holding the Genesi Smarttop computers we use and on the table is the Smartbook.

This Powering Potential adventure continues to excite and inspire me!


The Technology Tent Graduation Sherehe (Ceremony) on November 4 began with the students demonstrating what they had learned during their five-month course:

In the photo above we are watching students use a nested IF function to calculate grades. (If you know Excel you will know what I mean :)  I was VERY impressed with all that they could do!

Students are seated and standing in the back from left to right are Founding Executive Director of Powering Potential, Karatu District Education Officer, Banjika Headmaster, and Powering Potential's Country Director.

Then we moved to another room for the awarding of the certificates, speeches, and a feast. I got a big applause when I said, "Moyo wangu unaruku kwa furaha." (My heart is jumping with happiness.)

And presentation of gifts to Janice Lathen:
A heart-warming expression of appreciation by Happy Mashinga on behalf of the students
A sweet card
A beautiful piece of fabric
An original song and dance by the students

And below is all that they have learned.

RACHEL is the educational content which we install on the Powering Potential computers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Tanzania Again

Tanzanian State House in Dar es Salaam
Here I am again in Dar es Salaam meeting with government officials at the U.S. Embassy, the Ministry of Education and the Tanzanian State House (equivalent of the U.S. White House)...that was really cool !

More and more people here are becoming impressed with our work.

Tomorrow morning I will be going to Karatu to attend the graduation of the 23 students who have completed Powering Potential's five-month Technology Tent training course. Four of them will be chosen to become trainers at Welwel and Florian Secondary Schools, a pair at each school.

Next week we will install a solar energy system and five computers each at Welwel and Florian and the trainers will begin teaching what they have learned. Powering Potential will pay their wages for three months and thereafter each school has agreed to continue the employment of one trainer for a year. When the district can assign a degreed computer teacher to the school Powering Potential will return and add 15 computers and the school can then offer Information and Computer Studies courses as part of their curriculum.

I feel so amazed when I think about all that has happened because my heart was deeply touched by the Banjika school students.

A heartfelt appreciation to all of you who have joined me on this exciting journey.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

U.S. Embassy REA MoEVT Aga Khan

I've spent five days in Dar es Salaam and have had meetings at the U.S. Embassy, the Tanzanian Rural Energy Agency, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and I dropped off a proposal for a grant at the Aga Khan Foundation. Whew...

The meeting at the Embassy went great! More on that later....

Hamisi, the head of the Tanzania solar company we use, recommended me to Mr. Msofe the No 2 person at the Tanzanian Rural Energy Agency which is a division of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals. Mr. Msofe gave me an application for a grant which I submitted to him today. He said it was all in order and he is going to consider it.

I also met today with my friends Mr. Kalinga and Mr. Ponera at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. Each time we meet they are more and more enthusiastic about what we are doing. They are eager to come to Banjika to see the computer lab and they want me to meet the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry. Mr. Ponera is the head of the IT department at the Ministry and Mr. Kalinga is in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation. (The press we are getting in the Tanzanian Daily News is definitely helping our cause.)

Also wrote a letter and prepared a proposal for the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports.

I got a referral to the Executive Director of the Aga Khan Foundation in Dar es Salaam. He is on vacation now, so I dropped off a letter and our Action Plan for him to consider when he returns.

Well I'm off to the airport...will be home Friday afternoon.

Baadaye (Later)

Out of Toothpaste

I am out of toothpaste...I guess that means it is time to come home :)

and I am coming home.

My flight leaves at 10:55pm tonight. I'll be home Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I have been kimya (quiet) as the Tanzanians say.

Usually when I am in Tanzania I enjoy robust health and sufficient energy and stamina. This time I am having a different experience.

I'm feeling much better now. Also, I've had a hard time getting online from my room at the lodge.

We have finished the first week of training and it has gone very well. We have a Tanzanian computer teacher with a degree in Computer Science and he is teaching the students well. They are appreciating his teaching and they think he is handsome :)

The journalist was here for the past three days and conducted several interviews and took photos for The Monitor article and a story for The Daily News in Tanzania.

I'll try and write more later.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Driving Adventure

Have you ever driven a car in a country where they drive on the left side of the road? It is not just that they drive on the left side of the road, you shift gears with the left hand, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and the turn signal lever is on the right side of the steering wheel. To make a left turn you push up on the right-hand side lever. Until I got used to thinking upside down and backwards, whenever I wanted to make a left turn, the windshield wipers would come on.

In Tanzania one drives on dusty, rocky, dirt roads while occasionally dodging donkeys, goats, cows, bicyclists, and children. The countryside is SO beautiful. I love these drives into the country.

Yesterday, Happy and I drove one hour from town to visit two secondary schools. We are looking at other schools and meeting headmasters to determine the sites of our installations in 2012. Of course every school is eager to have computers. We are warmly welcomed wherever we go.

Monday, May 30, 2011

This One or That One???

Our five-month Technology Tent training session begins June 6. We have 18 computers and 28 applicants. How do we choose? Albin, our Country Director; Justine, the Banjika headmaster; Mr. Tonde, the Welwel headmaster; and Peter, the computer teacher decided to conduct interviews. I sat in the background and kept silent.

Twenty applicants showed up for the interview. Each applicant stood in front of the panel and was questioned about their commitment, ambition, desire to teach technology to others, and computer experience. A few were so fearful they could hardly speak. It was too heartbreaking to me to reject two applicants so we decided to accept all 20. Some computers will be shared. We will see how many participants show up on Monday morning, June 6 with their $25 contribution to begin the program.

Today I am visiting other secondary schools in the Karatu district. We are installing a solar energy system and computers at two more schools in October 2011. One school will be Welwel and the other is still to be determined. I met with Mr. Mbwambo, the Karatu District Education Officer and we compiled a list of 10 secondary schools in the district which he thought would be good candidates for installations in 2012.

Stay tuned.


I wonder why some computers are working and some are not :)

Powering Potential has a very dedicated group of people working with it. The computer guys are striving diligently to solve our software problems. It is such a relief to me to have such knowledgeable, committed people involved with Powering Potential. I also hired Happy Mashinga, a former Banjika graduate, to help us. On Saturday she helped set up student accounts on the computers, test all the mouses (is it mouses or mice?), accurately set the date and time, and we taught her the proper way to turn on and off the solar energy system. When Albin is in Dar es Salaam and I am in New York, she will be on-site to help. She lives a short distance from the school.

Happy has a lot of potential to power.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

That has been my mantra the past few days :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Arrived Safe and Sound

I left my Manhattan home at 2:30pm Thursday, May 19, and 24 hours later was checking into a hotel in Arusha, Tanzania (9:30pm Tanzania time).

This morning I am meeting with Albin, Powering Potential's Country Director and Rogers, our vendor in Tanzania who is helping with the computer installation. We will work out the final details of the installation plan. The computers have already arrived and the monitors are arriving tonight.

Our long evolving plans are finally coming to fruition....I wonder what wonders await us.