AVIF is an innovative online charity, assisting with sustainable development via online & onsite volunteering in rural Kenya, East Africa. We work with partner communities in the Brazilian Amazon, Greenland and Tibet too. Being virtual means negligible administration costs for worldwide impact. We believe in efficiency, honesty and transparency. WE DON'T CHARGE FEES.

".. Kenya was my first step in changing my life this is why I cherish this experience so much, as it gave me self confidence and made me know I can do anything and go anywhere and make a difference" Ingie, 2011

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01
Dec

Challenge emigration and the power of music

Written by Alison on Saturday, 01 December 2012 22:21. Posted in Blog

Travel2Change have launched their latest challenge - click the infographic for further details:

Facebook hosted contest

The Challenge is NOT limited to US citizens and anyone can submit an idea to win $500 towards a trip with AVIF to support one of our existing hosts or even a new host of your choice.

News of our long-lasting effects came today with the announcement by Charlie & Nick, 2007 UK Volunteers and long-time supporters of the Mercy Children's Home in Maseno, that they are literally emigrating to Kenya!!!! We wish them all the best wishes and happiness for a fantastic time in a wonderful country. Zoe, another long-term supporter from New Zealand and fellow 2007 Volunteer just arrived in Kenya today too for a quick trip.

Talking of truly amazing people, today is also World AIDS Day and to spread awareness, Bono's company RED is currently live streaming the Stereosonic Music Festival in Melbourne. I urge you to tune in even for just a few minutes to see some of the video clips interjected within the thumping basslines of DJs like Tiesto who is personally match-funding up to $100,000 today; Dec 1 #WorldAIDSDay DANCE (RED) SAVE LIVES. Twitter @joinRED @Tiesto & BUY the album or just watch the livestream to help us all see the #endofAIDS !!!

 

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02
Nov

Kids & AI

Written by Alison on Friday, 02 November 2012 21:19. Posted in Blog

Taken from Kurzweil AI, a truly amazing story:

Given tablets but no teachers, Ethiopian children teach themselves

October 29, 2012
olpc_children

(Credit: OLPC)

Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day.

Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.” ….

With 100 million first-grade-aged children worldwide having no access to schooling, the One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages — simply dropping off tablet computers with preloaded programs and seeing what happens.

The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs.

The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.

READ MORE: MIT Technology Review

AI and Ethiopia: an unexpected synergy

Excerpts written Oct 25, 2012 by Ben Goertzel

Getnet Aseffa

In February of this year, KurzweilAI.net’s Amara Angelica ..was in touch with an enterprising young Ethiopian engineer named Getnet Aseffa, who was interested in advanced technologies and their implications, and especially in their potential application to help Ethiopia and other African nations.

Like Kenya, the majority of Ethiopians are still rural farmers, and poverty, unemployment and income inequality are all high. ......There is a highly energetic and rapidly increasing population of businesspeople, entrepreneurs and technologists, explicitly striving to better their country and maintain its fantastic growth rate by starting and executing a huge variety of projects. 

AI in Africa?

... Many decision-makers in Ethiopia and other developing countries recognize the existence of opportunities to leapfrog past stages of development that currently developed countries have passed through, using new technologies to hop directly into the future. 

... there are great opportunities for AI to help developing countries ... and for these countries to help advance AI. 

How AI might help

  1. .. previous work using the OpenCog AI system to predict power transformer failures. This sort of application is extremely interesting .. given their rapidly growing and sometimes rickety power grid.
  2. AI-controlled microdrones ... are already in use for surveillance purposes, but supplying them with better machine vision could allow them to be used more broadly, e.g., to survey crops and track the spread of agricultural disease. Similar technology could enable microdrones to be used to help with mining prospecting.
  3. AI-powered bioinformatics...could be used to help understand Africa-specific health problems, and help accelerate genetic engineering of crops
  4. AI dialogue systems, accessible via cellphone, could be used to provide medical & other decision support
  5. AI tutors, provided via smartphone, could enhance the education system. The reason why 30% or more primary school graduates don’t attend high school is mainly transportation. ... Tele-education may be part of the solution.
  6. Smartphone-based medical diagnostics. With a microscope attachment, a smartphone can analyze blood samples and message the pictures to servers where AIs or human doctors can analyze them. A host of other portable, automated diagnostic possibilities exist — this is related to the current Tricorder X-Prize.

What seems to be lacking at the moment is any organization oriented toward carrying out these sorts of applications. Perhaps in time, ... Universities will formalize an organization similar to MIT Media Lab, bringing together scientists and engineers with various backgrounds to creatively address .. issues and opportunities using AI and other advanced technologies.

.....The Ethiopian infrastructure is still at an early stage of development, [SIMILAR TO kENYA] but for some industries, this doesn’t matter that much. Software is a good example. The average Internet bandwidth in Ethiopia is distressingly low, but for a relatively modest price one can get a decent connection (say, hundreds of U.S. dollars per month). And the bandwidth situation is rapidly improving. Computer hardware and repair are readily available. 

Of all the advanced technologies pushing directly toward Singularity, AI distinguishes itself by requiring the least resources. Nanotech, robotics and biotech require expensive lab equipment, which is difficult to maintain appropriately in a location like Ethiopia, where spare parts are far away. But AI just requires computers and smart programmers, and an Internet connection ... [KENYA] has all of those, and at a remarkably low price. So it seems quite possible that .... developing countries, could end up serving as the engines of AI advancement — maybe even the location of the breakthrough from narrow AI to Artificial General Intelligence.

Many thanks to Ben Goertzel and @KurzweilAI for the forward.

 

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23
Sep

Challenges and Being Unreasonable

Written by Alison on Sunday, 23 September 2012 20:08. Posted in Blog

We would like to publicise a fantastic new Challenge in partnership with Travel2Change and GOOD Maker. You have A CHANCE TO WIN $1000 to USE TRAVEL FOR GOOD if your submission is selected. Deadline OCTOBER 31, 2012. Further details here, though unfortunately the Challenge is only open to US Citizens.

Being Unreasonable, however, is open to anyone, anywhere.

If selected, young entrepreneurs are invited "from every corner of the globe to live under the same roof for six weeks in Boulder, Colorado, US" .. to receive training from world-class mentors like Paul Polak, who has enabled over 20 million farmers to move out of poverty. You'll be able to form relationships with investment funds, receive legal advice & design consulting, and pitch to hundreds of potential investors at the end of the Institute. 

The Fourth Annual, 2013 Institute will be open to teams and individuals from June 12th – July 24th, 2013.

 

Here are a few more details about the 2013 Unreasonable Institute:
2013 Unreasonable Institute Overview
What Fellows Get
Selection Process
Eligibility and Being Competitive

If all that sounds like YOU then Please Apply! Deadline OCTOBER 25, 2012

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11
Sep

A valuable lesson from the Arctic

Written by Alison on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 17:04. Posted in Blog

The Uummannaq Children's Home is located in a small isolated town on a small island in a large fjord on the North-West coast of Greenland, about 600 km north of the Arctic Circle.

The Children's Home is one of the northern-most residential round-the-clock institutions for children and young people - in the world! It is Greenland's oldest children's home, opened in 1929 as a children's sanatorium housing children of TB-sick parents. Later, it became an orphanage and by 1992, it had become a children's home housing young people that had experienced neglect and abuse. It belongs to the Home Rule government of Greenland and has a capacity of 23 Greenlandic children and young people, the current oldest being 23 years old. The kids all come from families with severe social problems. They have little or no contact with relatives, some are orphans, some mentally and/or physically handicapped.

More than 75% of the Uummannaq Children's Home staff are Greenlander, others hail from Denmark, The Faroe Islands and France. French film makers C'estLaVie films are responsible for much media attention to the Home of late, including the film INUK which tells the story of a sixteen year-old living a troubled life with his alcoholic mother and violent step-father:

"One morning, after pulling the half-frozen boy out of an abandoned car, the social services decide to send Inuk North, to a children's home. There, Inuk meets Ikuma, a local polar bear hunter, who has his own share of problems. Haunted by his troubled past, his extraordinary hunting skills are mysteriously disappearing. The children's home's warm-hearted director asks Ikuma to take Inuk on his annual seal-hunting trip in the hope that, despite the risks, Inuk will learn that he has a valiant past and a hopeful future. They share an epic dogsled voyage and face much more than the bitter cold and fragile sea-ice.
The most difficult part of the journey will be the one they must make within themselves..."

The Uummannaq Children's Home staff are assisted a great deal by helpers. A social work or teaching background is not needed as much as passion creativity and empathy. Local hunters and housewives support the culture and help keep the homely atmosphere at the Children's Home, to try to help the kids overcome their traumatic experiences. Educational activities, projects, therapy groups and resocialization is used but generally the aim is to keep the Greenlandic culture central, while staying open to the world around. Activities include hunting and fishing projects, boat trips hiking and dogsled expeditions, art and music therapies, video workshops, camps, education and summer holiday travels.

The incredible CLIP project (Cleaner Life Ice Project) here turns refuse into art and is a lesson for the entire planet:

The new initiative of Uummannaq Polar Institute (UPI) has been extremely successful and plans are underway for much greater collaborations and connections, as a result of tireless work by my good friend and Polar Explorer Moki Kokoris.

Ann Andreasen, the director of UPI and the leader of Uummannaq Children's Home calls it "simply a re-invention of an old tradition". Re-use, re-build and re-think - a way to build a more sustainable Greenland and planet as a whole.

AVIF will be supporting the Uummannaq Childrens Home and have a call for any volunteers wishing to spend time helping the children and young people and learning from them about traditional ways of life in the Arctic. A valuable lesson. 

The photo below is the melting Greenland ice sheet, from James Balog's book, Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers. James Balog has spent the last 30 years travelling all over the planet to highlight the effects of climate change.

Photograph by James Balog capturing in vivid colour the melting of Greenlands ice sheet

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04
Sep

DEMO VC4Africa Launchpad

Written by Alison on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 21:14. Posted in Blog

Really exciting! .. our partnership with Californian-based TerraEndeavors is now in the running for entry and invites to the DEMO & VC4Africa Launchpad in Nairobi next month.

 

VC4Africa are a peer to peer network connecting entrepreneurs and our powerful ideas with the info and capital we need to effect change. AVIF first registered the Uhundha environmental project on the site 3 months ago and Ben White, Founder member, just buzzed us to get into action and update the venture profile for potential application to the Launchpad event 24-26 October !!

As well as founding VC4Africa in 2008 with Bill Zimmerman, ex Microsoft engineer, Ben developed the East Africa ICT Entrepreneurship program at Hivos, which invested in projects like Ushahidi and Nairobi's massively successful iHub

Being on the V4Africa pool is a great advantage though its still up to us, of course, to garner investor interest and secure an investor but VC4A assist with fixing term sheets and publicising registered intentions to close the financing round. VC4A then charge a 1.5% fee from us and 1.5% from the investor in a “Pay it Forward” model allowing them to support new generations of entrepreneurs. 

Fingers crossed for Uhundha and the community that we're all successful and get to pilot a "a first-of-its-kind green-technology business that works in collaboration with the community to provide clean-burning cooking fuel, fresh drinking water, renewable electricity, Spirulina-based nutritional supplements, high-protein animal feed, organic fertilizer and dozens of employment opportunities while reducing the carbon footprint by over 10,000 tons of CO2 per year."

 

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