John Cleverley Meets Barack Obama's Grandmother.. And Tells Us Why Mobile Phones Are So Critical to Send A Cow
Education Manager, John Cleverley hopes more and more people will lend their support to Send A Cow's valuable work in Africa in 2012. As the charity's Thank You campaign continues - with supporters who bought Christmas gifts being thanked - he tells us about the extraordinary potential mobile phones have for helping Send A Cow's work in Africa...Oh and meeting Barack Obama's Grandmother on a recent trip to Kenya.
(PICTURES: BARACK OBAMA'S GRANDMOTHER AND JOHN CLEVERLEY (RIGHT), SEND A COW'S THANK YOU CAMPAIGN, A MOBILE PHONE, BARRACK OBAMA, EDUCATION PROJECTS)
"On my recent trip to Uganda before Christmas I had two different jobs to do – firstly to collect stories of children who have come out of poverty because of Send A Cow's help and finding out how things had changed for them... What will their future look like now.
"And secondly to help with research into how farmers share what they know with their community using mobile phones. They can use mobile phones and radio to text information to friends or sending information to radio stations." says John.
But what is the significance of mobile phones for Send A Cow in Africa?
"Amazingly the mobile phone signal that you get in rural parts of Africa is much much better than our reception here in somewhere like The Mendips... We were able to get on the internet via the phone in rural Kenya, but we wouldn't have been able to if we were in the Mendips.
"The potential to harness mobile phones is incredible - for every African there are two mobile phones. They could use them to help inform themselves about things like; market prices, pesticides and weather changes and to arrange meetings. Also they could find out what they should feed animals. You can send one text to 100 people - so there is a huge potential for sharing information." John explains.
'Sharing' is a key principle of Send A Cow. "For every one person we help - 10 more people benefit. Mobile phones can make this statistic even larger! A text message to a radio station could impact thousands of people!"
But do Africans share?
"They say we wouldn't necessarily normally share in a general way - that they would share with family for example. They think we're good at sharing in the UK. On a smaller scale people take in orphans and care for their families in a totally different way in Africa." says John.
But was the highlight to the trip meeting Barack Obama's Grandmother?
"She's not massively well off – she had a little farm and some cows and all sorts of crops and when we met her she was shelling beans.
"She told us a lot about Obama's dad; that he was motivated, caring and intelligent. She has only met Obama twice and the first time was when she gave her blessing to his and Michelle's marriage." says John.
He very much has his thinking cap on with thoughts on the imaginative projects and resources which he produces for schools and groups in the UK to help inform about Send A Cow and poverty issues.
"A lot of it is just making it understandable and interesting for young people in the UK, using things from their everyday life like water and food and what their houses are made of and relating it to life of a child in Uganda." says John.
With the Thank You Campaign launched before Christmas continuing, John says 'watch this space!' for forthcoming Lent Campaign Packs.
"The Thank you campaign over Xmas was really really good. We had good responses from supporters. It made their day when staff phoned them and personally thanked them. It was well received.
The Thank You Campaign focussed on particular Send A Cow supporters, chosen at random to be thanked. A video was made for each and on top of that put letterheads with a picture of the team saying thank you. Handwritten compliment slips were written at Christmas and lots of thank you phonecalls were made.
And what does 2012 hold?
"We hope to get lots more supporters and more and more people involved and getting messages and video straight from Africa. And for my role? I hope to get lots more schools and pupils on board with our schools projects." says John.