One of many amazing children we have met on this journey

One of many amazing children we have met on this journey

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back in the States and working on the next project

Just arrived back in the states and already busy working on the next two projects. I have been making some design changes to support the increased power requirements to run a remote clinic. Equals3's goal is to only have two very specific designs. One to run our school program and the second to run our clinic program. The school system is working extremely well and we have refined the components and installation process to a point where we can meet 95% of the schools needs. This solution saves money, installation time, and support while still giving a remote school ample power to meet almost all of their requirements! The clinic program is a bit more complicated because of the need to power additional medical equipment. I am busy working with the local development community in Kenya to try and accurately determine what the true clinic requirements are so we can find a way to package a solution similar to how we deliver power to a school. Once we understand that, we can find a way to package a consistent clinic solution so we can build it cheaper, faster, and make it so it can easily be maintained for several clinics. Man...this is fun stuff! John

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Visited Sereliopi school

Took a drive east towards Somalia to visit a Samburu school. Equals3 has agreed to get involved with NRT to assist in projects for the Northern Territory of Kenya. Check out our links page of the website for details on NRT. They are an amazing organization that has the community development skills we require to have success with our projects. The photo is of the village that surrounds the school. I spent about 30 minutes with the head master discussing the challenges of educating a nomadic culture. I continue to learn so much. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Singing Wells of Samburu

Visited the singing wells of Samburu. Tribes have been coming to the wells for generations. The wells can be as deep as seven people depending on the drought. They use cans to hand the water up to each person and they sign songs to alert their specific herds to come to the water. Each family has its own song for their herds. The animals know the family song to come for water. You are not allowed to photograph the Samburu people and the wells. Very limited information exists about the wells because the Samburu wells are very private. The photo is of one of the elders spears which he allowed me to take. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Our Samburu Guide

Went for a walk through the lower plains of our camp at Sarara. Being on foot is wonderful because you can engage wildlife at eye level. We had a guide with us that was showing us tracks and explaining sounds and plants. The photo is of our guides assistant who was there is case we stumbled upon an elephant or Leopard.
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, September 9, 2011

Leaving Lewa for Sarara

Heading north for a few days to see the Mathews Range. Heard amazing things about the area and Sarara Camp. We chartered a Sesna 206 for the journey. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our next project

We site reviewed Equals3's next project. Loborua Clinic which serves several thousand people is located in a Masaii village near our Leparua school project. Power is a critical step for this clinic to attract nurses and doctors. Also the facility needs to have basic lab equipment and refrigeration. This will save many lives. The closest clinic with power is a days walk. This location is perfect for our design and equipment and we are starting now to raise money for a 2012 installation. Your donations will go a long way to making this happen. Please go to our website or click on the donate link on the right. Thank you for all the support. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Visited Leparua school

Went back and checked in on Leparua primary school where our first two projects have occurred. Things looked great. The power system is working perfectly and I was able to review data from the system and see how and what they school has been doing. They requested adding another room with lights for additional evening classes. Based on how well they have been managing the power, it is not a problem. The head master was so happy with the news. They will now raise the money for the wiring and lights! It was great to see everything working perfectly and to hear the stories of success from the teachers. John

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Our work is done!

We are heading back to camp from Karimba with the worst ladder ever made. All is good. We heard exciting reports from the teachers via the Lewa community development. They have so many exciting plans for students and parents now that they have electricity. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An exciting moment

Nathan Muthomi is one of the committee members for education at Karimba school. He was there when we powered on the lights for the first time. He was speechless. He brought is son Jacob over to see the event because Jacob will be one of the first students that will be using the lights for evening preps. Jacob is hoping to get a scholarship to attend high school. Kids only get to study past eighth grade if they have good grades and evening classes will help these children improve their chances. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

We have power at Karimba

It was long day but we completed everything at Karimba primary school. Because some equipment we purchased in Nairobi was not actually what we requested, we had a few technical issues to resolve that we would not normally face. Some wiring was mismarked and installed wrong so we had to climb back up to the panels and re-wire. The problem was that all we had was a bent 16foot ladder that we would not even allow in the US. With some rope and stupidity I climb up to confirm the error and attempted to correct it. It became clear that I would need a 7ft basketball player to reach the connectors so I had to go with option 2. You guess it. Option 1 was bad so option 2 was worse. I put on protective eye wear and gloves and re-wire hot leads in the junction box to correct the errors above. It worked great. I only got shocked once and had only two small spark events that freaked out everyone. I don't recommend doing this at home but for anyone who knows me option two is no surprise. Several hours later we were up and running with everyone cheering. Over the next month Lewa will be funding more lights and power outlets to run laptops. Now it is time for me to have a few beers! John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Another day another flat tire

We keep getting our exercise changing tires. Another flat cause by tough road conditions. We are out of spare tires now (smile)
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Local Rug Weaving

Visited a group of woman that hand weave rugs today. They are located on Lewa and sell the rugs at gift shops at the high end tourist lodges. They were wonderful and gave us a tour. They start with wool sheered locally and they spin the yarn in the building next to the looms. All the spinning is done by hand on old style wheels. Artists have created several patterns and images which are then hand weaved on several looms. This is a great example of how small enterprises can be successful. It was a great visit and the women could not have been more gracious. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

The Drive

No surprise when the rains come the driving gets more difficult. With all the holes and ruts the terrain can be a challenge. The schools we are visiting are not in easy locations to visit so we end up with a lot of road damage. This trip we have had 2 blown tires, a busted mirror and several slides down hills and roads. No worries...the 4x4 is fine...not so sure about us! John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, September 5, 2011

We are almost done at Karimba!

Had a busy day today working at Karimba. We got about 95% of the installation complete. The last 5% is always the worst. We have power running but 4 solar panels need to be re-wired. They are very high off the ground and these panels arrived incorrect connections on them. Not a surprise the connections were wrong when dealing with vendors in Nairobi. We are still learning who we can trust! Sorry I diverged...we tried to make the connections on the panels work but it seems to have failed. We need to get back up there and cut and strip the wires the old fashioned way. Sounds simple but we don't have any normal ladders to reach this area. I know I will dream something up. We also need to connect the system to the building junction box. We are requesting that the school buy the wire as they need to invest in the electricity they will be getting. We should be back on Wednesday to complete everything! The good news is the everything has been tested and it works great. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday a day of rest

Today we took it easy. I did a run to the school this morning and checked on few things we need for tomorrow. We all met up later to visit the equator to work on our tans. Actually, we stopped in at one of the oldest and beautiful clubs in Africa. The Mount Kenya Safari Club is amazing and you feel like you are transported back in time. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Nothing goes to waste

The head master at the school has been so gracious and thankful for our efforts. We were in the process of cleaning up the cardboard packing material to take back with us to Lewa when he made a request to keep it. He explained that at this school they offer 3-5 year olds day-care to assist the parents who work in the fields farming and the cardboard will make great story boards for the kids to draw on and place on the walls. Very cool...

I think that he may have been more excited about the large cardboard sheets than the actual power system! (just kidding). John

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Solar Panels are installed

We rigged a truck to support a ladder and were able to get the solar panels bolted and wired into place. The new solar frame kit I designed worked great but we ran into a snag with ground wiring which we will fix on Monday. I will have the designs modified for the next project to fix the issue. Each time we do this we improve the process. Rain was our enemy today. When we got to Karimba, the roads were washed out. If the rains continue, we might face delays next week. We also had to modify the equipment mounting board in the building to handle the amount of equipment we have to install. This was no easy task since we had to cut a 4ft long board with only a hacksaw blade. Really...that is all we had. It took about an hour of sawing but we got it done! Monday we will be back to install the power equipment if the weather permits. Thanks for all the great emails and support. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Loading trucks for Karimba

We set out this morning with two trucks and some local labor to deliver and install the heavy equipment. Once everything is there, we can attempt to install the solar panels. While the weather is ok where are storage facility is located on Lewa, we are headed up to the Mt Kenya hills where the rains have started. It is surprisingly cool here and cold where we are working. Karimba is at over 7000ft elevation and has started the rainy season. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, September 2, 2011

Elvis is in the house

I walked out of my room unaware that Elvis was next to me. He is a young black rhino who hangs out in the area. His mother is blind and Elvis was bottle fed when he was young. He is wild but likes to hang around humans. He has no idea how strong or big he is. I sat and watch him for an hour devour all the nice plants next to our building. He snapped a tasty tree in half so he could eat it easier. Finally people came to run him off the property and try and save the landscape. I think he will be back tonight! John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Site review of Karimba

We did the site review of Karimba school today. On this project we were less hands on compared to the last one. I supplied details technical drawings I created based on the last project with a list of things to be constructed. I was a bit concerned on how this would work out but I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. They had completed all of the tasks and had resolved some of the more challenging issues. They installed the frame structure higher than we expected. The good news is that the panels will be safer from theft. The bad news is we are not sure how to get the panels installed at that height. We spent the day trying to buy a few 15foot ladders but none exist within a few hundred miles. We have decided to build a rig on a truck we can borrow and use it to climb up under the frame. I am sure pictures will follow after we try tomorrow! Should be fun. We also have an issue on the power room we had built with how the mounting boards are installed. We are going to take them down tomorrow and try and cut them to size. We only have a small hand saw so it will be a challenge. More to follow...wish us luck!
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Lewa Communications Director

Met with Ruwaydah Abdul-Rahman today and discussed how to take advantage of our joint efforts to get the word out about Lewa and Equals3. They will be issuing out an eNews letter next week which will include a story about our Karimba project plus links to our site and blog. The news letter goes out worldwide to Lewa donors. On our sites we have links to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and we will be adding more links that reflect education and conservation and how the two work together. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Meeting with Lewa Education Director

Had a great meeting with Faith Ruinga, Lewa Education Director. Without her groups support, the school power systems we install would not be used by the community effectively. It is essential that the areas we work in have a strong community development organization. They do the real work to educate the community and to bring other donors to the area to assist in bringing computers and education to the community. Faith is standing in front of a mural that has been painted in the new education center at Lewa. It will be used to educate children on why conservation brings real opportunity to the surrounding areas. It is a very effective tool against poaching. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Arrived at Lewa

We arrived at Lewa to start the Karimba school project. We had a chance to meet with the new CEO of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mike Watson, on our way to our accommodations. We talked about all of the projects that are ahead of us and the expansion of Lewa's role in community development with the Northern Range Trust. There are many projects we can assist on over the next several years. Most importantly, there are school and clinic projects that will need our skills to help jump start electricity to solve other critical issues. Exciting times ahead! Visit for links to Lewa and NRT. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Arrived in Nairobi and getting ready to head out tomorrow to the school project near Lewa. Took a moment to visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. It is an incredible program that rescues infants and helps get them healthy and mature enough to be released back into the wild. There is a great article this month in National Geographic about the organization and what they do. It also highlights all the challenges of poaching and the ivory trade. Worth a read. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A great way to start our trip to Kenya

Just wanted to pass along an email I received today.

I have been working very closely over the past few months with Faith Ruinga who heads up education development for Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and she sent me this email yesterday which puts into perspective why we do this and the positive impact Equals3 Foundation can have at Karimba Primary School.

FROM FAITH****************


We are all looking forward to seeing you. I was in Karimba yesterday and the reception is unbelievable! The parents are so excited and are looking forward to bringing in the children for evening preps and waiting for them while attending adult classes and then walking home together at nine. Was very interesting to hear their plans.

See you soon, a different community it is that awaits you.

Many thanks



Sometimes it all feels worth the effort.

We are on our way to Karimba School - Kenya!

Well it took over 6 months and tons of logistical issues but we are on our way to back for our next school project in central Kenya. Karimba primary school is located near Mt Kenya in the highlands that surround the mountain. This school supports approximately 300 children as well as adult education. The photo above is the library where we will be adding electricity for evening education and daytime use.

We will be working in the area between September 1st and September 12th. Please visit the blog often for stories and photos. I will be posting daily.

Thanks for all the support.

Friday, June 10, 2011

It is official!

Equals3 Foundation is now a public 501(c)(3) charity. All gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.

Over the next few months, we will be implementing new online programs to make it even easier to send a gift. Until that time, you can go to our website to for the latest details on how to donate.

I just want to thank everyone involved in getting this done. Your support has been amazing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crating the Power System for Karimba

We are well on our way to getting everything we need over to Kenya for our project at Karimba primary school. We have already procured in country the necessary batteries and solar panels and have had them trucked to our storage location at Lewa. We have also hired people to build our solar panels frames and complete the changes to the school to make the system secure. We are just about to ship the electronic components. The electronics have been assembled and tested in Ojai to make sure we can rapidly install everything once we arrive. From the time we crate a system to the time it arrives on site usual takes between 2-3 months because of all the approvals that have to happen before we airfreight the unit and the customs clearing when it arrives. Yes, we are air freighting the system and it still takes that long. Planning and logistics are always the biggest challenge but we are getting better at it. Mostly because we now understand all the pieces involved.

Hopefully all will go smooth and we will be installing in August!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nairobi logistics meeting

We arrived back to Nairobi and had a logistics meeting with a recommended company that has a lot of experience with crate shipping for NGO's. It was very educational and with a little work we should be able to simplify some processes which should save the foundation time and money. Our next school project is Karimba which is shown above. Amazingly we need to be ready to ship equipment in the next few months if we want to install electricity by the end of August. It is very hard for us to get used to having to plan so far in advance for projects but it is the way of Africa...

Thank you all for the great emails and support. We should be home in a few days and already have so much work to do for Equals3! Sounds like fun...

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Joy's Camp

We arrived in north Kenya on a reserve call Shaba. When we landed, it was hot and everything around was dead from no water. We drove quite a distance over rock and dirt and to be honest, I was a bit concerned that this lodge may not be what I had hoped for. Joy's Camp is made famous by the book and movie "Born Free" and we had heard great things about this arid desert area. When we finally arrived I could not have been more surprised. In this dry and dusty area lay an amazing oasis fed by several natural springs. The luxury camp site is one of the best I have seen with all of the designs reflecting the Muslim culture of the area.

We have also met several people who are working on community projects that we may able to assist with in the future.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Our ride

Our charter arrived to take us north and I was not if we would fit! We squeezed all of the luggage in and flew off without a problem. From the air we were able to get much better sense of the landscape and effects of they drought. Luckily, the area received its first rain since October a few days earlier and had given everything some temporary relief. From the air you could see the drought impact as we headed toward Somalia. The landscape looks completely burnt and most of the trees are dead. I am surprised that anything can survive on this area.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry


On our way to the air strip we stopped at a friends house on LEWA to say goodbye. We got a chance to meet Elvis the young wild Rhino. He was born on LEWA to a blind female and after birth was raised by the park because she could not take care of him. In this picture he was trying to get past the fence into the yard and decided to eat his way out. He is wild but I was able to touch his skin through the fence. It is amazingly thick and feels like thick rubber.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Goodbye to LEWA

We have finished all of our work and meetings at LEWA and are getting ready to head north for a few days. Not sure what we will find because of the drought. We are moving off the plateau to the more northern dessert areas. I had to take one last photo of the incredible elephants.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Job

Carl and I have news jobs! We were headed back up to do a final review of our power system and meet with the school headmaster. Since it is Friday here people are heading home for the weekend. Most people work where the jobs are during the week and sleep in work supplied housing and go home for long weekends when they get a chance. Several people were walking to the village where we were headed so we offered rides for free. The walk would be about 12 miles through difficult terrain so the ride was greatly appreciated. Around Kenya there are small vans call MATATOOS which people can pile into for a fee. Carl and I where thinking of ways to increase our passenger count to make some money so we can get home.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Karimba Primary School

Today we site visited our next school to determine what we need to have built locally before we arrive in the fall. We were so excited that we started off to the school location on a paved road. It was our first drive in a week on roads that were somewhat smooth. We drove about 45 minutes on the main road which goes up and around Mt Kenya. All smiles, we turned on a dirt road expecting to be nearby only to realize we had another 45 minutes of driving over dirt and rocks. Once we arrived, we understood why this school will never get main line power. The teachers and school were expecting us and gave us a warm welcome. Since we have a developed a power installation blueprint, we were able to determine all the requirements very easily and make the plans for the required construction. The kids sang songs for us and we also visited the only children's nursery on the area.

If funding goes well, we should return in August to complete the project. The hard work begins now as we manage construction, order and ship equipment, and manage getting everything on site...

Let the fun begin!!!!!!
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What we learned

It was great to be able to visit our previous installation and learn how the power we are generating is being used. We were pleasantly surprised at how much the school and community were positively doing with the electricity supplied. The school had decided to divided the library into 2 sections so students in the back could self study in the evening while a teacher could hold an evening class in the front. They used the book shelves already in the library to separate the areas. We also learned that the local community had started to used the building for evening meetings of the village elders. During the day they are charging 14 lanterns for the teachers to take home at night as well as cell phones. Carl and I also donated a computer and printer on our last visit which the teachers have been using to start teaching basic skills. There are computer teaching aids available and approved by the Kenyan government that they will use once they get more laptops donated.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

She stole my heart

Sheeba, who is about 5 months old, was rescued recently and is being rehabilitated. We were fortunate to be invited to meet her. I spent about an hour playing with her and being climbed and chewed upon. She is incredible and she stole my heart...John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Upgrade at Laparua was a success!

Carl and I finished the power equipment upgrade today at Laparua primary school. Everything went very smooth but it took a lot of time and hard work. We added additional equipment to support more evening classes for the children. They are now splitting the library into 2 areas so they can have a study area and a classroom. We also learned that the community has begun to use the library to hold important village meetings. We are off tomorrow to site plan Karimba school which we hope to complete by the fall.

Thank you everyone for all the great emails supporting our efforts.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ndare Ngare Cleanup

Today we took a break from working on power to help a local community pick up plastic and trash. The local school children were part of the education program to help them understand the value of throwing trash away properly. We spent the morning helping organize and photograph the event. We collected 20 bags of trash around the school and town. The children have only experienced throwing trash on the ground with no regard to the environment. We picked up plastic, paper, metal, shoes, and batteries to be recycled.

Hopefully this will be the start of a new program on the area. It will be hard to change what is now ingrained into them. When we finished cleaning the area, we handed a water bottle to one of the organizers and he opened the bottle and threw the lid on the ground. It was indicative of the challenge ahead. After we all jump on him and scolded him for what he did, I doubt he will do it again.


Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, February 14, 2011

Great Help!

We spent the day working at Leparua school reconfiguring and expanding the power system. It was a long day of work and 4x4ing but we accomplished a lot. We were lucky enough to be assisted be two Italian volunteer teachers living in the local village. Olmo and Olivia have been working at the school for several months and have been using the power to teach children in the evening and also teach them basic computer skills during the day. Amazingly, Olmo and Olivia found about the school when they were searching the web for poverty education programs and their searches brought up our web site and the school. Once they saw all the pictures online and realized the school had solar power they new it was a perfect fit for their skills.

I love this story...John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Working to Support Mt Kenya Wildlife

Carl and I were recruited by our friends at Lewa to help support a major mountain bike race that raises money to protect Mt Kenya Wildlife. A group of us were sent out into the bush to hand out water and give directions to riders. There was a lot of confusion around the race and all the water stops. We had to send one group right and the other left...we did pretty good after about the first 20 riders. Sadly, the first 20 were the top international riders and we may have sent them in the wrong direction. Lucky for us we did not see them again! John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Save the Rhino

On my plane ride into LEWA I met a woman who handles fund raising for Save the Rhino International. She was on her to Borona Ranch which is adjacent to the area we are working in. Borona Ranch is interested in opening part of their ranch to support the protection of Rhino which are endangered. She is there to determine the feasibility of the project and to see how Save the Rhino International can help financially.

Check out their web site at

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Drought at LEWA

Arriving to LEWA we got to see first hand the current drought and the effect that it has had on the animals and landscape. Fires are burning on and around Mt Kenya and water can only be found in streams which are fed by springs. The photo shows how grey and burnt the grasslands are which are of no nutritional value to animals for food. Rains are not expected for a few more months. John
Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, February 12, 2011

View from the Air

This a photo I took when we left Wilson Airport near Nairobi. It is of one of many slums in the area and if you look in the background you can see the contrast between the slum and new development. This contrast is occurring all over Nairobi.

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Nairobi

We arrived into Nairobi late last night and spent the day running errands and scheduling meetings. We had a wonderful dinner tonight with our friends at Tropical Ice Safari. They handle all of our East Africa travel arrangements and scheduling. Their support has been instrumental in getting things done for the foundation. They just launched a new web site showing all of their trips and adventures so please check it out. The link is on the right hand side of the blog. We fly out tomorrow on a bush plane to start working at Lewa. Wish us luck...

Sent from John's Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, January 7, 2011

We are heading back!

We finally have more equipment on its way and we will be back at Leparua school to expand the power system and learn more about how it is being used first hand. We then will be off the Karimba school for site preparation (we will be installing in August 2011). While the process of getting more equipment to Leparua has taken longer than we had hoped, the learning process has been amazing and we now understand better how power will be used in these remote environments. By the time we do Karimba school in August, we will have a packaged power system we can replicate to more schools in 2012. We are just at the beginning of this journey but the momentum is starting to build.
Thank you for all the support - John