My brother-in-law Pete just stopped by with 3 soccer balls for me to take to Rwanda! I hope to run across a couple football games and if the kids don’t have a real ball I’ll pass these on to them. Pete couldn’t resist the replica balls from the first world cup in Africa! Nice touch that I’m sure the kids will notice. He also provided a pump with extra needles for each ball. We’re thinking sustainability and maintenance, important concepts for even the smallest project…

Thanks Pete! Very thoughtful and there is nothing like the gift of play. I’ll try to get some pics and video of the balls in action once they get on the feet of kids who can use them!

Preparations for Rwanda

I’m just about complete with my preparations for my trip to Rwanda. It’s been a whirlwind 6 weeks from when I first was asked to go. My philosophy is to prepare myself for amazing opportunities and then make the most of them when they present themselves. In preparation for this amazing trip, I’ve read these amazing books:

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families Gourevich’s book on the 1994 genocide goes so far beyond just a history, it almost feels timeless. He uses the genocide to allow us to consider what it means to be human. Everyone should read this book…

As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda Larson takes a look at what it means to try to carry on after the genocide. She presents dozens of real-life tales of reconciliation that are heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.

Mountains beyond Mountains Tracy Kidder tells the tale of Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti. President Kagame asked Farmer to Rwanda to help remake the country’s health care system. Farmer’s melding of liberation theology and public health is nothing short of brilliance.

And David Brancaccio has an amazing segment on Farmer’s work in Rwanda. This half-hour is amazing–take the time to watch it to see just how attainable conquering AIDS in Africa really is.

I’m going to Rwanda

Today I got confirmation of some great news–in February I’ll be going to Rwanda for a week to help install an open source medical records system at a rural health clinic! I’ll be going with Lucky Gunasekara and meeting with Partners in Health.

I’m really excited to work with Lucky! This project will be amazing, and Lucky has a longer-term vision. He wants to answer the question: does cloud computing have a role in health systems in rural Africa? He’s planning some really interesting efforts in Kenya later this year. In time, I think can be a boon in rural Africa, and I’m really interested to start the work to figure out if that time is now, soon, or farther down the road. I see this trip as a great first step on that path.

When I started working with five years ago, I felt part of my role was to go down the path of trying to deeply customize the platform for nonprofits, and then to report on that experience, warts and all. I really enjoyed that work, and I hope to do similar work and storytelling around in parts of the world where people assume the cloud can’t work.

But most of all, I’m really excited to have all my assumptions and expectations blown out of the water! I can’t wait to walk the roads, meet folks, and most of all listen and learn. I will be arriving with no answers, and I don’t expect to leave with any. For me, it’s all about getting to the right questions. There will be so much to take in, to start orienting myself to this new set of challenges.

Only just a week ago a friend pointed me to this piece by David Brancaccio on Partners In Health’s work in Rwanda. I was floored by the outcomes they are getting, and the thoughtful design of the community health program. I recommend watching it–it’s amazing.

So many times people look to technology as a savior. That never works in my estimation–human systems are how problems are solved. Technology can augment and transform those solutions, but it isn’t the answer. I’m incredibly excited by what’s already working in Rwanda, and am fired up to start thinking about how technology can help extend that impact.

I watched this video and emailed the link to a friend of mine with the message, “this is the work I want to do with my life–helping people build community-based systems that really work.” Four days later I got an email from Lucky inviting me to Rwanda, to the very region where that video was filmed. Serendipity is a fabulous thing!

Ahh! I’m going to Rwanda! I still can’t really believe it. It all feels so fast and so amazingly exciting. Of course I’ll be writing about the experience, as well as taking tons of pictures and videos. So much to do to prepare!

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