Radio education for South African AIDs orphans

by Lifeline Energy
One of 10 Lifeline radios signed by Tom Hanks
One of 10 Lifeline radios signed by Tom Hanks

New York, January 21, 2008…. The Freeplay Foundation announced today that two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks will participate in a charity auction hosted on eBay Giving Works Jan 22-Feb 1 to support the Freeplay Foundation.

Tom Hanks, the Freeplay Foundation’s U.S. Ambassador, will autograph 10 self-powered Freeplay Lifeline radios for the charity auction on eBay Giving Works, eBay’s dedicated program for charity listings. Each high bidder also will receive a personal letter and a signed photo from Mr. Hanks.

“The Lifeline radio can change the world – one person, one house, one village at a time,” said Mr. Hanks. “The beauty of the Freeplay Foundation is the radio itself and the immediacy of its mission: to put radios in the hands of people who need them. Lifeline radios can make a positive impact from the moment they are turned on in one of the villages.”

People can go to or can click on to place their bids and to watch a special video from Tom Hanks.

Lifeline radios are not sold commercially; they are the first radios ever produced specifically for use in humanitarian projects. Radio is the primary means of mass communication in developing countries, but often, transistor radio batteries cost too much for people to buy on an ongoing basis and electricity is non-existent. The Freeplay Foundation provides radio access to the poorest people in the world via the wind-up and solar-powered radios, which do not require batteries or electricity.

Working mainly in Africa, the Freeplay Foundation enables hundreds of thousands of children to learn English, math, science and life skills through radio distance-learning programs. Coffee farmers learn new planting techniques using Lifeline radios, and people throughout Africa learn how to prevent HIV/AIDS while listening to their Lifelines. Nomadic tribes listen to Lifeline radios as they caravan, and orphaned children -- living completely on their own – can grasp a “lifeline” to the outside world when listening.

“The first time I held a Lifeline, I felt like I was carrying all the promise of the modern world in my hand,” remembers Tom Hanks. “Music can come out of the sky without batteries being tossed into landfills. Information can be sent and received, and voices of freedom can be heard. All by winding up this little box.” The Freeplay Foundation is a fund-seeking organization with 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status in the U.S., is a registered charity in the UK, and has Section 21 non-profit status in South Africa.


Media contacts: East Coast: Alexandrea Ravenelle, Global Fluency (646) 652-5216 West Coast: Brielle Schaeffer, Global Fluency (650) 433-4163 For the Freeplay Foundation: Michelle Riley (912) 898-2195

Tom Hanks - the Freeplay Foundation
Tom Hanks - the Freeplay Foundation's U.S Ambassador



For Africa’s Children, It Comes One Radio at a Time

By jake miller

NOT LONG AGO Kristine Pearson found herself in a ball gown at a dinner at Kensington Palace in London, talking about poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and the problems of children who have lost their parents to AIDS or to the war in Rwanda—kids struggling to keep their brothers and sisters alive and together as a family. She was seated next to a man who asked about her work as executive director of the Freeplay Foundation.

Read more in the attached magazine article...


Global Giving donations have recently funded self-powered Freeplay radios for AIDS orphans in remote rural communities that straddle the banks of the Nondweni, a tributary of Blood River, in Kwa-Zulu Natal. They are also providing sustained radio access via the bright blue Lifelines for child-headed households in busy, crowded townships such as Orange Farm just outside Johannesburg.

In December 2005 the Times of London sent its reporter Jonathan Clayton to South Africa to interview Freeplay Foundation partners and beneficiaries. Articles appeared in January ‘06 editions of the newspaper which had chosen the Freeplay Foundation as a beneficiary for its Christmas Charity appeal.

In Orange Farm, Jonathan interviewed Johannes, a boy of 16 who has looked after his six year old niece, Mabusha, and his 11-year-old brother Tebeho alone in their one room shack since his mother died of AIDS five years ago. Thanks to the efforts of MaAfrika Tikkun, an NGO operating to provide practical support to orphans since 1994, and also to the generosity of Global Giving donors, Johannes now has a Lifeline to the world and his community.

From the radio, he receives practical advice on health and security – vital in a world where what little food and few clothes he can obtain for his brother and niece is at constant risk of being stolen. He listens to the news, he enjoys music, and he also listens to information about missing persons.

Like so many children Johannes loves school and sees it as a way to climb beyond the difficult life he and his family currently endure, but often he cannot attend because of caring for his siblings. Then the radio really comes into its own. Johannes tunes into basic education programs that help him hold on to his dream that one day he will indeed become a doctor.

Guardianship of the radio has another value for Johannes and his little family: it makes them welcome members of local society. The children get invited to neighbors for meals and encouraged to bring the radio with them so that all can listen! Johannes is delighted to share his Lifeline. He knows that as a ‘guardian’ of the radio he is expected to put it at the service of his community. He wishes that everyone could have one, because he knows the joy his radio brings Mabusha, Tebeho and him. He also knows that batteries are beyond the pocket of most of his neighbors and peers.

And while villagers of Nondweni in Kwa-Zulu Natal struggle to find the $12 a year to send their children to school, batteries that cost more than a daily meal are certainly beyond the reach of most. In this poor rural area, the NGO NOAH is busy mobilizing the local community to create an ARK, an infrastructure that can provide many types of practical support for the AIDS orphans of the region. As an integral part of the offer of support, NOAH workers identify and distribute self-powered radios to the most disadvantaged children.

Like Johannes at Orange Farm, Nokuthula Masuku is an AIDS orphan, but she has been without parents for more than eight of her slender ten years. While her great grandmother is still alive and tries the best she can to care for her, Nokuthula is often left to her own devices and her life has been transformed by her new companion – a bright blue Lifeline radio. One of the important lessons she is learning from radio is how best to protect herself from attack in an environment where many believe that sleeping with a virgin can cure one of AIDS.

Across the river a nine-year-old school friend of Nokuthula also uses his self-powered radio to protect himself. In his case, the value comes from listening on his Lifeline to the weather forecast. When rain threatens, Nkosingiphile Vilakazi does not make the three-mile journey on foot across the river to school – for he knows that he, like others tragically before him, can all too easily become a victim of a flash flood. And he is no longer so worried if he misses school because the radio helps him keep up with his lessons.

A $65 donation will enable other AIDS orphans in South Africa to receive a Lifeline radio. With further Global Giving donations, Freeplay Foundation will be able to continue to provide MaAfrika Tikkun with more self-powered radios so that other township children like Johannes can receive joy as well as practical advice and education. And NOAH will be able to distribute more radios to children like Nokuthula and Nkosingiphile who need to protect themselves from the many dangers that beset AIDS orphans in rural and urban South Africa.

The Freeplay Foundation is delighted to announce its selection as one of 119 finalists among over 2,500 entrants in the World Bank's highly competitive Development Marketplace 2006 programe.

Freeplay's new Weza (power in Swahili) foot-powered generator is a robust, environmentally friendly and portable energy source that offers dependable power for everyday use and emergencies. Fifty mainly women 'Weza Pioneers' in Rwanda will be equipped with business start-up kits, training and low-risk financing, to establish cash based energy service micro-businesses. The project will enable us to assess the Weza's technical performance in harsh rural settings, fine-tune micro-loan mechanisms and price points and gauge the scalability and replicability of the new Freeplay Weza micro-enterprise model within and beyond Rwanda.

The Foundation's entry for a pilot project to launch Freeplay Weza based micro enterprises in Rwanda will be presented at a Development Marketplace meeting on 8-9 May in Washington, DC. Successful finalists will receive grants of up to $200,000 each. The Foundation's partners in this innovative initiative include Freeplay Energy Plc, CARE Rwanda, Cornell University's Center for Global Sustainable Enterprise and Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.


In 2005 the Freeplay Foundation continued support to existing partners while adding new partners to its Vulnerable Children’s Fund (VCF) initiative in South Africa. Three examples illustrate 2005 activities of our partners and VCF’s role in supporting their varied efforts to address South Africa’s escalating ‘epidemic of orphans’.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) was an early Freeplay Foundation partner for VCF and Lifeline radios support its work with child-headed households. Radios act as ‘tutors’ to those children unable to attend school, by providing access to news and weather and youth-oriented programs such as Soul Buddyz. A memorable 2005 distribution of radios took place in NMCF’s Johannesburg offices on 20th July. At a party in celebration of his 87th birthday, Nelson Mandela – Madiba as he is affectionately known – presented Lifeline radios to children who have experienced difficult times and emerged as survivors.

During the distribution, children were encouraged to discuss issues directly affecting them, including access to information and communication. Madiba’s message was simple: “knowledge is power and it should be received however and wherever”. Young VCF radio guardians are strongly encouraged to take community responsibility for sharing the knowledge they gain from radio access, via listening groups and clubs.

A new Freeplay Foundation partnership with the Children’s Institute and Siseze Educational Trust in Ingwavuma gave support in 2005 to a ‘Growing up in a time of AIDS’ radio project, which involves children directly in program development. Intended to reduce stigma and develop public awareness about lives of children affected by AIDS, the project gives orphans and vulnerable children a forum to create radio programs presenting their stories to the world. Freeplay Lifeline radios are a work tool that can help them learn about different structures and styles of radio interviews and programs, as well as enabling them to hear and reflect upon their own and other radio programs.

Radios distributed in 2005 to six primary schools with which Siseze works in Ingwavuma quickly revealed the potential for broadcast programs to enhance their teacher support activities. Teachers now tune in daily via Freeplay Lifeline radios to Ukhozi FM’s English in Action half hour program. They lead their classes through a variety of songs, poems and other activities designed to help develop their orphan listeners’ spoken English.

Another new VCF partner, Noah, nurtures orphans of AIDS in community-based models of orphan care, through which motivated individuals from communities are guided to set up their own community "Ark": a network of accountable support armed with skills and confidence to care for their orphaned and vulnerable children. More than 100 Arks have been established in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. In October, Freeplay Foundation distributed 30 Lifeline self-powered radios to Ark guardians. Global Giving donations have provided funding for another radio distribution to Noah, scheduled for mid-January.

During 2006 and beyond, at least 650 orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa will benefit from Global Giving’s 2005 donations by receiving the lifeline of sustained radio access, for which the Freeplay Foundation and its VCF partners say a loud and heartfelt “Thank you!”


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Organization Information

Lifeline Energy

Location: Cape Town, South Africa - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Kristine Pearson
Executive Director, Freeplay Foundation
Maitland, South Africa

Funded Project!

Thanks to 31 donors like you, a total of $2,314 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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