On Technology, Communication, and Changing the World

Google Connects People & YouTube Spreads News
In my personal life over the past week, I have had the Internet gods shake me from my ‘taking technology things for granted’ bubble. Because of things like internet, email, and Google search, I have come into contact and communicated with game changers- people that will influence my path and ultimately, change the world. And it’s complicated. It is people that are also aware of the abuses at Watoto Wa Baraka, it is people who will influence my personal career… it is finding out that a friend of a friend I met in Botswana is also a friend of a friend I met in South Africa (Facebook shows you how small the world really is). I know that 20 years ago, I never would have connected with these people because I would have never used Google search. And now that Kony 2012 is at the very least making people aware of Joseph Kony and the horrible LRA, it shows how powerful YouTube videos and Facebook sharing are as a catalyst to change the world and spread news. 

Blogging and Privacy
But, technology is a double-edged sword. This blog is public. It means that everything I write on here can be read anywhere, from a fancy coffee shop in New York to a mud hut Malawi. Just as I have tried to use this blog to make the world a better place, I also feel stifled at times. I can’t always say what I want. I wrote quite in depth about searching for a school for John, and yet… I can’t say too much. And, I can’t post the photo of him on his first day of school as he grinned from ear to ear in his preppy school uniform right before he proudly walked into a school that was about to change his life. Virtually no one in Kenya, including friends and family, know where he’s going to school for privacy reasons and I must find the fine line between writing about him as a way to tell his story and keeping his safety as my utmost concern. I’m assuming other bloggers run into this from time to time, but I find it extremely frustrating. I can’t just say what I really want to. I can’t write about certain things because I might taint an investigation. In some ways I wish I had a space that I could be totally unedited… I guess that’s called a private journal, not a blog.

Snapshot from one of the surveys

Facebook for Fundraising
But, alas, the internet gods remind me to be grateful. As I write this, I just surpassed the $1000 mark of my  most recent fundraiser. I brought back a lot of handicraft and jewelry from Kenya to help pay John’s school fees. I posted an album on Facebook, and before I knew it, things were flying off the shelves. Friends and family were generous, and even shared my album with others. Six weeks and $1000 later, I am on my way to paying off the balance for this year’s school fees. Facebook has been great to me, but now I’m going to use this blog for some self-promotion and share the link with you to my album of unsold items. There are some really beautiful things left…including handbeaded leather sandals for larger feet due to a miscommunication on sizing when I ordered :) Check them out HERE! You can email me at awanderingsole@gmail.com if anything interests you.

Snapshot from one of the surveys

Email to connect to the other side of the world
And, of course, I must mention email and Skype. I am developing a business that will operate from the US and East Africa. I have selected my first group of women to employ that live in a slum in East Africa and suffer from HIV. They all make less than $4 per day and all care for their own children in addition to orphans. None of them have electricity or running water. Because of email and Skype, I have a liaison that is laying some groundwork for me until I can visit the women. As part of my business, I will be tracking the economic impact that this job will have on them. I developed an initial survey to gain insight into their family situation, living conditions, job skills, and economic status. I had a Skype date with my liaison and emailed him the survey. He printed it, called a meeting with the women for the following day, interviewed all of them, scanned it at an internet cafe, and emailed it back within three days. Although many of the answers weren’t surprising, I found out that one of the women is only eating one meal a day. Only one out of five can read and write. All responded that there are times when they don’t have enough food to take their ARV’s, medicine necessary to delay the onset of AIDS. But much to my relief, all of them have their children, that are of age, in school. And all of them are desperate for work and looking for steady employment. Thanks to email, I developed a survey in the US that reached women in the slums of East Africa and was returned to me in a matter of days. It’s simply incredible.

Is anyone else left feeling a bit like a dinosaur and still in awe at how powerful the Internet is for communication and at how successful applications like Facebook and YouTube are for spreading information?

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