Freeplay's wind-up and solar-powered products have a significant impact on the lives of individuals and communities in a range of different settings. In addition to working with some of the largest aid and development organisations in Africa, Freeplay also supports small, local projects, such as Kishermoruak School in the Masai Mara National Reserve in south-western Kenya.
Since 2008, Ridgewood Rotary Club in New Jersey, USA, has been working to help improve facilities at the school. Under the direction of then-president Jerry Kallman and his wife Lorraine, the club created a partnership with the school and, working with parents, pupils and staff, developed a programme of long-term support for Kishermoruak School which included providing new classrooms, a deep water well, a library and a faculty room, as well as hot lunches for the 300 children who attend the school.
In 2009, a friend of Jerry's sent him a reference to the Freeplay website, which included information about the company's range of wind-up and solar-powered products, each designed specifically for use by people living without access to regular electricity supplies. Jerry contacted Freeplay's office to see if they could help and subsequently received a robust and easy-to-use dynamo and solar-powered Encore Primary multi-band radio, which has since been invaluable for keeping the school's students in touch with Kenya's news and distance learning programmes - so much so that the school even dedicated one of its rooms to the Freeplay Energy team.
The school has made great progress and recently attained first place in Kenya's national examinations.
With this great achievement under their belt, Jerry and his colleagues - including the head teacher of Kishermoruak School - began the search for a second school to support and identified Endoinyo Nairasha Primary School, which is again located in the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Jerry got back in touch with Freeplay and was subsequently able to donate a second Encore Primary radio. This was handed to the head teacher of the new school, who cranked it and immediately tuned in to a farming and fertilising programme – the pupils were enraptured, as most had never seen TV or radios before.
Jerry Kallman commented:
"Lorraine and I visited the Endoinyo Nairasha Primary School in the Masai Mara, and I can tell you it is beyond the beyond. After leaving the main road we travelled for almost an hour over double-track pathways, through three small rivers and amidst various collections of zebras, wildebeests and gazelles to this forlorn primary school. However, the students, as I always find, are extremely motivated and we were pleasantly surprised to find limited solar power (lighting in the library and two of the eight classrooms). When I presented the head teacher, Joseph Tompoi, with the Freeplay radio, his colleague immediately tuned in to the Kenya distance learning station, broadcast from Nairobi, and we were treated to a perfectly enunciated Q and A between a teacher and a girl student, who were discussing agricultural matters and fertiliser!
"This reassured me that our current school is well into use of the radio for teaching purposes and gave the new school a powerful example of just how useful Freeplay Energy's donation could be."
Freeplay's Aid and Development Manager, Viv Jenkins, added: "Freeplay's radios and other products are playing a part in the development of widespread communications infrastructures which empower whole communities. But they can also have a major impact in smaller, tightly-focused projects, such as those in Kenya. Students at both Kishermoruak School and Endoinyo Nairasha Primary School can now enjoy access to educational resources that would have remained out of reach without the use of a reliable radio that does not depend on mains power or batteries. Access has been further increased following the supply to the schools of Encore Player radios, which combine all the features of the Primary with an integrated MP3 record and playback feature, which enables users to listen to pre-loaded educational content and to save students' audio contributions. We are proud that Freeplay, in partnership with Ridgewood Rotary Club, continues to play a part in helping students in both these schools to access the information they need to achieve their full potential."