Monday, January 01, 2007

Jason featured in his hometown paper

This was from the Idaho Press- Tribune on 12/30. The link didn't work so I posted the text from the article:

Idahoan helps to connect Africa

Jason Sears has lived in Namibia for a year helping to
spread technology, and he's ready for more

By Adam Ross - Idaho Press-Tribune

Jason Sears has fielded plenty questions during his holiday time back
in Idaho, there's just a couple he can do without.

"The worst is when people ask 'what's Africa like?'" Sears said.
"There's just so many things you can say."

But Sears didn't return from a vacation in Africa, he spent a year in
the southwest nation of Namibia as a Peace Corps volunteer, and will
soon head back to the land for another year of service. In Namibia,
Sears is lending his lifetime of computer knowledge to a nation
devoted to fixing its broken educational system.

"They spend a lot on education," said Sears, a graduate of Boise State
University. "Only 30 percent (of Namibians) graduate from 10th or 12th

Those who do get through the school system quickly find that there
are few career options in a nation whose main natural resources —
diamonds, uranium and fishing — are mainly exploited by foreign
countries. As part of the Peace Corps' Information Communication
Technology (ICT) project, Sears gives computer training to young
Namibians, teachings that are usually not available in a nation with
widespread areas still without electricity.

Traveling across the globe to live in a country that is only 16 years
old (after gaining its independence from South Africa) was a huge
decision, but one that was not entirely unexpected.

"It's definitely in-line with his character," said Jason's mother,
Esther Sears. "It took a little getting used to, but we're extremely
proud of him. He's accomplished a great deal and has made a huge

Sears' life in Namibia began with spending a month with a local
family, learning the skills that he would need on his own — such as
washing laundry in a basin and taking a bath in a bucket.

Sears spent his introductory weeks in a city neighborhood, but would
be doing his teachings in the poverty-stricken "locations," areas
outside the cities conceived during the apartheid era where the black
population was once forced to live. The locations still remain, with
neighborhoods frequently constructed out of crude metals and wood.

"It's amazing to walk through," said Sears, who attended Boise's
Capital High. "It's in not like (in America) where you see someone and
say 'hi,' there you have to stop and have a conversation with people,
and sometimes they invite you in and serve you food."

The same enthusiasm that thrilled Sears throughout the villages was
also present in his classroom, with students eager to learn computer
training. A challenge facing Sears as a teacher was that his students
had no access to computers at home — all of the skill building had to
happen during his limited classroom time.

"Traditional teaching won't work, because we would have such a mix of
experience levels," Sears said. "We ended up doing project-based stuff
like making movies, and had the less-experienced students learn from
the others. Unless they apply what they learn there's no chance they
will remember the skills."

The technology training is seen by the locals as a way out of the
villages, which have no economy to speak of and a heavy concentration
of AIDS infections and alcoholism. The latter is in part a result of
Namibia's beer culture, with residents frequently brewing their own
beer and often setting up their small house as a makeshift

Back home in Boise, Sears was met with an unwelcome greeting — cold
temperatures. Sears eventually grew accustomed to the constant triple
digit temperatures of Namibia, heat so assaulting that pants and
long-sleeved shirts become the preferred defense against the sun's
rays. Before leaving for Africa again on Jan. 2, Sears is busy raising
funds for the ICT efforts in Namibia. Sears and his partners (a group
of Namibian students who applied to teach alongside him) need
financial help with their bus travel from village to village they make
throughout the year.

Beyond a couple unanswerable questions, Sears has found it easy
adjusting to American life again during his brief stopover at home.

"Some people were worried that I would be a totally different person,"
Sears said. "But we've picked right up from where we left before."

How to help

Jason Sears is raising funds to help with transportation costs related
to his cause in Namibia. Any small donation will be greatly
appreciated. To donate, visit Sears' Web site at

Copyright 2005 Idaho Press-Tribune. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or

No comments: