Radios to Educate Child Laborers in Tanzania

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 - Freeplay Foundation
Tom Hanks - 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...


In the aptly named Valley of Hard Rocks in Kunduchi, just outside Dar es Salaam, children use a hammer and their bare hands to break stones in a limestone quarry. It typically takes them an hour to fill one bucket. If they are lucky they will be paid eight cents for their labor. Three hours of work under an equatorial sun and three buckets of rocks will earn one child enough to buy one small loaf of bread.

Jacabo, aged 15, told a visiting Times of London reporter recently that his chest ached and he is dirty all the time. Another 15 year-old, Tumaini, voiced the sentiment of many when explaining: “I have no choice. It’s the only way I can earn money to feed my mother and my brothers and sisters.”

Jacabo and Tumaini’s stories are not deemed particularly unusual or harsh in present-day Tanzania. Among its 4.7 million school-aged children engaged in economic activity, 300,000 are engaged in the worst forms of child labor. They work for nominal wages in quarrying, commercial farming, mining, dump scavenging, domestic service, hawking and as street vendors. Girls as young as seven are sexually exploited.

A commitment to offer Jacabo, Tumaini and other children in such circumstances other choices inspires the Freeplay Foundation to request funding support for radio education projects in Tanzania. With a sound basic education, these children who deserve so much more out of life may stand some chance of climbing up onto the first rung of the ladder of self-help.

Now every weekday morning at 10 a.m. the children of the Valley of Hard Rocks stop their labor and gather in a hut at the edge of the quarry, where they perch together around a bright blue Lifeline radio. Their mentor, a dedicated man called Freddy Kennedy, pays for the hire of this makeshift schoolroom out of his own small earnings. With the aid of radio programs aired five days a week, he leads the children in literacy classes which he hopes will enable them one day to fulfill their dreams.

For Jacabo that would mean becoming a human rights lawyer, while Tumaini would settle simply for “a better life”.

Several thousand self-powered Lifelines have already been distributed by the Freeplay Foundation in Tanzania since April 2003, to support basic primary education in informal learning centers like the one at Valley of Hard Rocks, as well as in youth leadership programs in the UNHCR refugee camps for Burundians in West Tanzania.

In 2002, the foundation’s principal Tanzanian partner EDC undertook a pilot distance-learning initiative called Mambo Elimu or “Education is Everything” in Swahili. EDC created 100 interactive radio instruction (IRI) lessons for grades 1-4, and offered them through Mambo Elimu centers in areas with high concentrations of child laborers and orphans. The curriculum includes: Swahili, math, English and science. Life skills are also taught to improve problem solving, first aid, hygiene, and health.

After completing fourth grade, children are helped to integrate into either Tanzania’s formal school system or enter a vocational program that will prepare them for more stable, less dangerous work. Children up to 17 years are welcome in the first grade of informal centers, whereas in government schools, if children have not begun school by age 7 it becomes progressively difficult for them to enter. After 14 they can no longer be admitted and are therefore forever excluded.

The Mambo Elimu project has been a remarkable success and radio access via self-powered Lifelines is a crucial component of the project, for electricity is non-existent in remote rural areas and neither children nor mentors can afford to replace radio batteries that cost more than a typical day’s wages.

The project is being expanded and scaled up as quickly as donations of radios and the creation of new grade level radio programs will allow. EDC currently is developing scripts for Grades 5 and 6 and by 2009 will have introduced a Grade 7 full year program, to include extra English and business skills training. In 2010, the Mambo Elimu program will be handed over fully to the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and EDC will withdraw. The Freeplay Foundation expects to continue its work of fundraising and radio distribution indefinitely, until the five million Tanzanian children currently out of school all have the right of access to a basic education.

The latest shipment of more than 1,000 Lifeline radios will meet the needs of about 40,000 children. Included in this shipment, which is planned to leave Johannesburg at the end of August and arrive in Tanzania in early September, are radios donated by Global Giving donors during 2006. The Lifelines will be distributed during the final quarter of this year to mentors and teachers of children who are all desperately in need and who yearn to receive a primary education that can help them exit from poverty.

The Tanzanian government’s own quantitative measures are proving the success of Mambo Elimu. Children attending classes take the standard Tanzanian government exams. Mambo Elimu children routinely achieve results at least as good as the average scores for their grade. And they complete grades in just half a year, so progress at twice the rate of formal school children. An inter-school exam included a formal Primary School and its informal Mambo Elimu Center counterpart. The headmaster of the formal primary school prepared the exam. The top 13 scores came from Mambo Elimu learners. Teachers and children from the primary school declared themselves unhappy about this result. They requested another exam. Once again, Mambo Elimu students achieved the top scores.

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.


The Freeplay Foundation is delighted to announce that Kristine Pearson has been honored with the 2005 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award, sponsored by Applied Materials, Inc.

The 2005 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award sponsored by Applied Materials, Inc. will be presented to Kristine Pearson, Executive Director of the Freeplay Foundation at the November 9th, Tech Awards Gala. The Award was inspired by Jim Morgan’s belief that technology can be a tool to unleash the potential in each of us, to turn our ideas into concrete solutions for a better, healthier, more just world. Kristine Pearson will be honoured for her humanitarian leadership, which is having a profound impact on the world.


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Organization Information

Lifeline Energy

Location: Cape Town, South Africa - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Jody Ehlers Buttenshaw
Freeplay Foundation Projects Manager
London, United Kingdom

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