Looma project concludes 9th summer camp spearheaded by Menlo Park resident David Sowerwine

by Linda Hubbard on August 14, 2020

Seventy volunteers and a cluster of parents and donors Zoom-celebrated the end of Looma project’s ninth “summer camp,” seven weeks of distance working and learning by 50 Menlo School students, nine quasi-retired teachers, and a dozen Nepalese students and staff.

Looma Education began in 1996 as EcoSystems Nepal with the goal of providing safe, efficient and inexpensive transport and energy systems for the people of rural Nepal. The organization was founded by David and Haydi Sowerwine, who spent a number of years in Nepal before returning to Menlo Park.

“If the only school your child could attend lacked power, access to the internet, meaningful resources, and trained teachers, you would want Looma,” said David. “Nepal’s 34,000 schools fit this model. With a million more school-age children than California, they have 1/100 the budget per child: $170 vs $17,000.”

Looma (hardware, software and content) is entirely “open source,” designed by volunteers to be licensed without fee to responsible providers. The goal is that Looma-like systems be available to any school.

“My Looma partner is Skip Stritter who organizes the summer program, executes the software, is amazingly productive and really dedicated to making this initiative successful,” explained David.

“I first heard about Looma when I was in middle school and I knew that it was something I wanted to contribute to,” said Menlo School student Reena Kagan.  “Its mission of helping students in extremely underprivileged areas is something that I really care about, since I feel so incredibly fortunate to receive such an excellent education at Menlo. I decided to work with Looma for a second summer because it was clear that our work is making a difference.

“This year, I was a Team Leader for both Team Blue and Team Orange. Team Blue created lesson plans for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade English, while Team Orange created lesson plans for 9th grade math. Both teams worked really hard and were dedicated to making valuable lesson plans, so it was a pleasure to lead them this summer.”

This past year 12 schools in Nepal piloted Looma successfully. A possible Rotary grant — along with your donation — could expand that to another 30 schools.

Top photo showing Looma box on table in Nepalese classroom, courtesy of Looma; Team Blue is pictured with Reena Kagan upper right

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