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How can you start a project with OLPC? February 12, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 2:10 pm
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We received a letter from Lindy in Australia, she wants to start a project with OLPC computers in Cambodia. There are a lot of people who want to do the same thing, just countries differ. How can OLPC help these people? The answer is either to guide them through the process or direct them to existing deployments. Please, see correspondence below and submit your comments.


 I recently spent 3 months volunteering in a small school in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The school is a Not For Profit run by an NGO.
The school is about to celebrate it’s first birthday and has already  made a huge difference to the lives of the wonderful children who go there. I would love to see the children with your computers, while they are learning so much now there is a desperate need for books and educational materials. I am concerned that the children only get to  look at books while at school and have often thought how much more quickly they would develop if they could work at home as well.
There are currently 140 children at the school and most of them are under 12. I know that they would be extremely grateful for the computers and make very good use of them. Is it possible to apply for a donation of the computers to the school and if so how do I go about it?

Kind regards, Lindy


Dear Lindy,

How wonderful of you to think of a present for the school in Cambodia. Please, remember that everything in life is visualized first and then becomes real. If you really want to make it happen and you work on it, it will come true but you need to know what the steps are.

While OLPC doesn’t offer donations, it mentors along the process. The main steps in the process are:

  1. Make sure the school is ready to handle the project  
  2. Raise money to buy computers
  3. Find volunteers to provide training to teachers
  4. Enable on-going support
  5. Develop curriculum to teach

More detailed:

  1. The school has to  have electricity and teachers willing to commit to learning computers and teaching them (extra load for teachers) plus other resources, including on-going financial (teachers salary).
  2. You can always create a project plan and post it on to raise money to buy computers (maybe not all 140 at first, you can always start with lower number to test it out). Several on-line fundraising sites are good for that.
  3. When you have the computers you will need to find volunteers, who will teach the teachers at Cambodian school how to use computers, so that teachers can teach children year-round.
  4. You will also need to have someone on your team of volunteers who knows how to fix computer when kids break them and have spare parts ready, also provide support (repair, technical support, teacher support, maybe long-distance).
  5. The last thing will be to develop curriculum and be able to revise it as software changes rapidly.

See more deployment guides on

You can’t just give XOs (OLPC computers) to kids without giving thorough instructions, as XOs have their own unique software. Also unsupervised, children lose interest in developing their skills, so teacher guidance is needed…

We will post similar instructions and sample project plans on that we created especially for people like you. The map also serves as a tool for communication with other volunteers and current deployments, so that you can contact them and learn from their experience. Feel free to look up schools and volunteers in Cambodia. If you collaborate with them, maybe you can combine or share resources.

Last year I volunteered in Saigon, Vietnam for three months teaching children in a shelter how to use XO computers, they have only 5 XOs and it was still a lot of work. I had to have a translator, set up Internet connections, educate teachers who were not interested in teaching, and deal with children’s resistance to be motivated to have after school classes, not integrated into their school curriculum.

I also went to Seam Reap and helped an NGO to demonstrate three XOs they have. Unfortunately, those XOs are unused, because teachers didn’t receive training  plus the school doesn’t have electricity to run computers, never mind money to pay teachers to give computer classes.

If after reading all above mentioned you are determined that you can make it happen and run the project well, you should pursue it.

Also, if you first want to try yourself as a volunteer, you can help an existing deployment, acquire skills needed and then implement OLPC computers in your school in Cambodia.

Let me know if I can help you with anything else.

Sincerely, Marina.


Dear Marina,

Thanks so much for your reply. I was actually going to send an email back with the question – how do I make it happen? – you have answered before I had a chance to!

As you say, visualizing it is the first step. I would love to make it happen so I’ll have a really good think about it and see if it can be done.

While I’m really keen to go back and volunteer again I’m not good with computers myself but I’ll do my best to search out for some people who are.

Thanks for your encouragement.

Kind regards, Lindy


2 Responses to “How can you start a project with OLPC?”

  1. Wayan Says:

    And if they are committed and raise the money, where do they buy the XO laptops? OLPC doesn’t support small deployments.

    eBay: is the only XO laptop source, unless you’re willing to buy hundreds or somehow capture Negroponte’s fancy.

  2. T.K. Kang Says:

    Great write up with useful tips. We can look at children differently perhaps and adjust accordingly to how we support them.

    >You can’t just give XOs (OLPC computers) to kids without giving guidance is needed

    We may be underestimating the child’s growing mind as they can learn by themselves without adult supervision:


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