Monday, April 19, 2010

Introducing Ryan Letada and eKindling

It's an early morning in late March in New York City when I arrive at Juan Valdez Cafe on East 57th Street and Lexington Avenue. I'm here to meet up with Ryan Letada, a fellow Fulbrighter and young social entrepreneur working with eKindling ("Education Kindling") an education and technology initiative in the Philippines. He warmly welcomes me into his "second office" - the first being his home in North Jersey - when we order some coffee and sit down for a very casual chat. The chat turned into a four hour conversation about our Fulbright experiences, re-entry, and of course, Mr. Letada's experiences in social entrepreneurship.

A 24-year-old Wheaton College alum, Letada's experiences have taken him through the corporate world to the slums of urban Manila. Letada recently returned back to NYC from a year long venture in the Philippines where he conducted a study on homelessness reduction and resettlement programs under the auspices of a Fulbright grant. He and a few like minded friends worked on eKindling on the side which quickly took up a lot of his time.

Using One Laptop Per Child's famed XO laptop, eKindling is working with Filipino educators to revamp the country's education system. Their pilot program is underway in two elementary schools in Lubang, Mindoro where the eKindling team teaches students and educators how to use the laptops. They also provide educational activities and other content to be used with the laptops, having been developed with help from educators. Back in college Letada worked on a similar education and technology startup in the Philippines which failed, he says, because of not anticipating problems such as security issues.

Letada admits to devoting all of his time to eKindling. "It's the last thing I think about when I go to bed, and it's the first thing I think about when I wake up," he says. Since arriving back in NYC in December, he's been living off of savings -when we were spending our checks from summer internships, he invested them all - and working on eKindling full time. He's slated to head back to the Philippines this year to work in the field with eKindling. Here's more of what Letada has to say about his journey with eKindling in Lubang, Mindoro.

To connect with Ryan and the eKindling team, follow them on Twitter @eKindling.

Questions for the Floor
Are any of you involved in any education projects and startups in Tanzania? What types of education and technology startups exist in Tanzania today?

1 comment:

  1. Vizuri (it's time to learn some Swahili words)!

    By the way, does writing for Vijana FM count? Personally, I never thought one day I will be standing in front of kids teaching them. But my mind has changed; I am planning to teach/give lectures to science university students when I go back home. I now feel like I have a lot in my mind to share - it will certainly be a crime if I just sit on the knowledge I have been acquiring...

    One of the projects I came across a few days ago is called UNAWE-Tanzania. Just visit their website to see how they are trying to motivate kids and youths: