ears to our world

At ETOW, we believe access to information is access to education. We provide innovative, simple and appropriate technologies to schools and communities in remote, rural and impoverished regions of our world.

Filtering by Category: Radio In Action

ETOW: Ten years and counting!

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 7.58.04 AM.png

It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since a school in Kibera, Kenya, took its first delivery of ETOW self-powered radios, generously supplied by our friends at the Eton Corporation. Since that day, ETOW has empowered educators, students, health workers, and communities throughout our world…for ten years and counting. We couldn’t have done it without you:  Thank you.

Sierra Leone. South Sudan. Haiti. Ghana. Mozambique. Mongolia. Chile. Belize. Uganda. Cameroon. Rwanda. Tanzania. Puerto Rico…Yes, we’ve been there, simply doing what we do and giving it our all––building the most incredible partnerships, and meeting the most extraordinary people, people who make all the effort worthwhile. We couldn’t have done it without you:  Thank you.

And while we built our mission around radio, we now include other information technologies, even developing our own safe and affordable lighting solution for regions off the power grid. Powered by the residual energy in one dead AA battery gleaned from a rubbish pile, ETOW’s super-efficient Humanalight will give a school child the light needed to read for weeks on end. And since this small flashlight can be constructed by scout troops, radio clubs, first-year engineering students, Maker groups––to name but a few––our Humanalight furthers education both before and after its little light shines on…and on. We couldn’t have done it without you:  Thank you. 

In a recent interview, I described ETOW as the tortoise in the world of charities: while we’re neither the biggest nor the fastest, we are steady, we are focused, and, whenever possible, we are there. We are guided, not by grand visions of success, but simply by compassion, common sense, and our ongoing goal of consistent support ETOW remains an all-volunteer nonprofit, upheld by a rock-steady base of caring donors––like you––who understand the powerful impact of focusing one’s giving where it’s needed most in our world. With your help, we’ll keep doing our part to brighten children’s futures, support teachers, expand health outreach, and rebuild storm-ravaged communities.  And it’s clear: We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you. 

With deepest gratitude,
Thomas Witherspoon
Executive Director,  Ears To Our World

“Small things, done consistently and strategically, can have a major positive impact.”

Just one of the sixty families we helped in Puerto Rico this year.

Just one of the sixty families we helped in Puerto Rico this year.

2018 will be remembered as the year we rolled up our sleeves in four countries, continuing our work in Kenya and Cameroon, as well as in Puerto Rico and Haiti…

Puerto Rico: Support after devastating Hurricane Maria

Both 2017 and 2018 have been active hurricane seasons. In 2017 ETOW noted the terrible destruction Hurricane Maria caused on the US island of Puerto Rico, and with the aid of a local PR ham radio club, initiated a pilot project to distribute emergency radios in communities there. In early 2018, we continued sending radios and helped inform sixty Puerto Rican households through a reliable, accessible form of communication: namely, radio.

Haiti: A focus on the visually disabled, and our first digital library

ETOW has been working in Haiti now since before the 2010 earthquake with our dedicated partners at the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF). Why? Recovery takes time. When a major disaster is no longer covered by the media, and the rest of the world has moved on, the people in the midst of the devastation are often just beginning to rebuild their lives.  This is not the time to forget them. So this year ETOW sent an additional 240 self-powered radios to rural Haiti, where they’re still needed.

Our partners with the HHF continue to concentrate the use of ETOW radios among the visually impaired.  Having a self-powered radio can open up the wider world to visually impaired people, who often become important sources of world events and weather information within their local communities. 

In addition, we’re working on a pilot project implementing a self-contained wireless digital library that can be deployed both at HHF community facilities and in the field. These digital libraries are essentially small computers holding 128 gigabytes of teaching and learning material in English, French, and French Creole. Students can log into the digital library via smart phone, tablet, or laptop to take classes in language, math, physics, chemistry, social sciences, and more. There are even video modules designed around health training: a win-win for both health care trainees and for the communities who need them.

Going forward…

ETOW remains committed to our strong partnerships, which enable us to achieve our mission on what other NGOs might call a shoestring budget.  And we’ve now proven that this model works.

With your help, we’ll continue to do our part for years to come.  We truly hope you’ll continue to stay interested in and involved with Ears to Our World. We welcome your support in any form.  And to those who have given, and continue to give––our heartfelt thanks. 

In 2019, may blessings abound and may peace guide us all toward a promising future.

Mission in Process: ETOW’s Radios Educate Despite Extremes

The self-powered world band radios that Ears To Our World distributes to remote, impoverished schools and communities around the world through its global partners are often subjected to extremes—not only climatic, in the form of relentlless tropical rains and scorching desert sand-storms, but also the political and economic, resulting in extremes of usage most technologies are just not built to withstand. To support ETOW's mission of providing the developing world with reliable access to information--e.g, educational programming, local and international news, emergency and health information--ETOW radios must be exceedingly rugged and maintainable in the field. Nevertheless, any technology experiencing this kind of usage must be expected to have a finite functionality: that’s the reason our commitment to ongoing partnership and follow-up support is so vital. When we place radios in schools and communities through our global partners, we do so as a collaborative effort among equals: to make a lasting impact in our served areas, our in-country NGO affiliates distribute the radios where they can do the greatest good. Additionally, our partner teachers and community leaders entrusted with ETOW's radios take responsibility for their care, monitoring each unit's function as a result of daily usage. ETOW maintains contact with these partners and provides assistance as needed and feasible.

Fortunately, the Etón Grundig self-powered, hand-crank worldband radios with which ETOW works have been functioning superbly in the field, in places as diverse as Belize, Chile, Romania, Mongolia, South Sudan, and Cameroon. Thus far, these units have proven more than equal to the challenge: with care, these radios can last up to up to three years in the field, exceeding our expectations for the product. In areas where conditions are extreme, the radios do wear more rapidly, but we have learned that only tens in hundreds break within the first year of use, a remarkable finding and a testament to the committed care of the units by our partner-users.

Even a more significant finding, however, is the validation of our organizational model. ETOW recently had the opportunity to examine the sole radio returned to us from a remote area of Cameroon where our partner, NGO EduCare-Africa, had assigned it for use as a teaching tool in a local school. While the radio still received signals after three years of use, it no longer charged by hand crank; ETOW requested its return for analysis. Pavla Zakova-Laney, Founder, President, Executive Director, and full-time volunteer of EduCare, promptly responded with the radio's return. In the meantime, as per our agreement, she offered the teacher partner a replacement radio. So, although the original radio experienced an internal component failure, it was apparently otherwise well-cared for, as the teacher partner had agreed upon placement; our NGO partner was informed of the problem, and served as on-site intermediary; and ETOW was able to address the problem by replacing the unit. Clearly, ETOW’s model of collaboration and follow-through works.

“We recognize that success in humanitarian aid requires providing consistent and reliable support over time,” explains Thomas Witherspoon, ETOW’s founder and director, “so we commit to our teachers and partners that we will do our best to replace or repair radios when they eventually reach the end of their useful life.”

ETOW’s experience in Cameroon is, in our view, a clear success story. According to Zakova-Laney, there are currently seven ETOW radios serving communities in Cameroon, being used in secondary/high schools. And although they are located in remote areas, EduCare estimates that nearly 2,700 students and teachers have directly benefitted from these seven devices. That number increases dramatically as news and other information is disseminated to students' families at home and to communities at large.

But upon further examination, EduCare’s feedback is not all that surprising. In the areas ETOW serves, even one radio can produce a remarkably broad positive impact. “Every school [that received a radio] greatly appreciated it, and promised it would be used well and handled with care,” explained Zakova-Laney. In developing areas, each radio is an invaluable resource because it can affect so many lives. Even the single returned FR200 with the broken crank, in otherwise good condition despite extensive use, reinforces what we’ve believed from the beginning: radio is the best method to reach the greatest number of people where the need is greatest in the developing world. It is economical, uncomplicated, broadcasts are unhindered by boundaries and politics--and, as we’ve seen, as tough as it needs to be.

We’re proud of the continuing role we play in support of invaluable programs like EduCare-Africa's, helping our partners achieve their goals of expanding opportunities and improving lives through education. So, exactly how important is our role? Zakova-Laney: “I believe that as long as there will be remote places without electricity and...a means of communication, these radios will be very helpful, bringing news, useful information and educational programs—and [they will be] appreciated tremendously.”

ETOW extends our appreciation to our generous supporters who enable us to do what we do. Thank you all.



Make: Magazine Maker Challenge--ETOW Radio Kit

At Ears To Our World, we have long wanted to give radios directly to school children in developing regions, but for a child, carrying one of our self-powered radios isn't always practical or even advisable, as this could make such children a target of theft. This is one of the reasons why teachers are the guardians of our radios. But ETOW recently hatched an idea to pursue the design and creation of an inexpensive kit that children could, themselves, assemble into a simple working FM radio--maybe even a green product, no less, in that the kit radio might incorporate a re-purposed plastic bottle as the radio's housing and/or a scrap cardboard base to hold together its components.  If the radio is somehow damaged, parts could thus be easily pulled off and replaced.

The exercise of assembling such a radio could be educational on many levels, and not only would teach a child about radio from the viewpoint of a young listener, but as a young engineer and perhaps even innovator.  This kit, while it would provide the basic electronics, may require a certain amount of ingenuity from the assembler as he or she would have to connect the electronics without solder, and perhaps with the assistance of items near at hand (scrap, recyclables, natural elements) for assembly board and housing.  Meantime, we at ETOW could learn an enormous amount from these radio-kit recipients, both in terms of practical usage and potential programming concepts.

With this in mind, Thomas Witherspoon, ETOW's founder/director, approached Make: Magazine; shortly after, we were surprised and pleased to learn that his casual inquiry has become a Maker Challenge in their online edition.  Creative hobbyists and "makers" alike instantly began to respond with ideas.

Many thanks to Make Magazine and the online editors for their support! What's more, we thank those who have (and have yet to) respond--and look forward to the invention of a kit radio, just for kids!

Why Radio in Disasters?

by Rob de Santos

What would you do if your car died on a dark road, out of sight of any building? Your mobile phone doesn’t get a signal. The car battery has died. It’s cold, dark, and perhaps even raining. You are truly “out of touch,” not sure when help is going to arrive. Would you be worried? Scared, even?

Now, put yourself in a disaster zone. Your house may be damaged or destroyed. Public utilities aren’t functioning. Power is out and mobile phones aren’t working. You are truly “out of touch.” Now, how might you feel?

The scenarios are remarkably similar in the feelings and concerns they elicit. In both cases, the lack of any communication makes the situation far worse. In both situations, if you could just turn on a radio and get news of what is going on in your area and when help might arrive, your sense of security increases as your fears diminish.

Such is the power of radio. When other communications fail, a simple radio with a crank or solar panel for power and knob to tune it offers a reassuring voice. A source of knowledge instead of just rumors. Before schools can get outside resources, or children can travel over repaired roads, radio provides a funnel of information that allows education to continue.

It’s easy (and necessary) in a disaster to think about necessities such as food, shelter, and clean water. How do people in the disaster learn where to go and how to get help with these basic needs? If you live in the industrialized world you might just assume it will show up where you are, sooner or later. As many found even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, that can be a risky assumption. What you need is information on how to help yourself, and the best way to get the information is through a radio.

Radios To Chile: Partnership Brings Information in the Aftermath


Ears To Our World would like to announce that we are now accepting donations for self-powered radios to the earthquake-affected area in Chile, through a fund-raising partnership with student groups from Harvard and the Boston, MA area. Their fund raising venture is called Reconnect Chile. Through Reconnect, we are pleased to have established a strategic partnership with World Vision Chile, who will distribute the radios throughout the rural coastal villages most affected by both the 8.8 magnitude earthquake, consequent aftershocks and tsunamis.

Please consider donating money today to directly support sending radios to Chile. As with our efforts in Haiti, your $30.00 US contribution purchases and sends not one, but two self-powered Eton emergency radios to Chile.  Radios provide vital emergency information so earthquake survivors can receive news of medical assistance, food, water and reports about loved ones.

Choose Donation Amount

2 Radios To Chile $30.00

4 Radios To Chile $60.00

6 Radios To Chile $90.00

8 Radios To Chile $120.00

10 Radios To Chile $150.00

12 Radios To Chile $180.00

14 Radios To Chile $210.00

16 Radios To Chile $240.00

Case Of 40 Radios to Chile $600.00

Again, all of this is made possible through our partnerships with Reconnect Chile and World Vision Chile. For questions about Reconnect Chile's fund raising activities, or if you would like to help, please contact: reconnect.chile@gmail.com

ETOW would also like to thank the generosity of our sponsor, Eton Corporation, who makes it possible for us to provide the incredible value of two information-providing radios for every $30 donation.

Ears To Our World is a US registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions to this project are tax-deductible.

Radios To Haiti Update: 300+ Additional Etón-Donated Radios

eton logoEtón Corporation, in response to our Radios To Haiti initiative, has generously donated over 300 self-powered radios to Ears To Our World for immediate shipment to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, through our logistics partner, Operation USA.

Moreover, in addition to these radios, Etón has donated over 450 self-powered flashlights to be shipped along with the radios.

Ears To Our World would like to thank Etón Corporation and its CEO, Esmail Amid-Hozour, for sponsorship and continued support of our mission as it expands to help those in immediate need in Haiti.

Radios to Haiti Update: ETOW Ships Over 100 Self-Powered Radios to Haiti

etowboxes1...And we hope to ship even more. The response from our Radios to Haiti fund drive, launched only last week, has been truly remarkable.  We wish to thank all that have donated, as well as the volunteers who helped prepare and pack the radios at such short notice.

op_usaWe have partnered with Operation USA to deliver and distribute our radios to the areas of Haiti affected by the earthquake. Operation USA is a charity that specializes in logistics; their sole purpose is to deliver aid to countries in need, such as Haiti, and for this reason they can do so quickly and efficiently. ETOW is pleased to be partnering with this reputable organization; we look forward to sending more radios to Haiti in the very near future.

Radios to classrooms in Romania

The scope of work we do at ETOW is not limited to any particular region of the world. As long as teachers and their students meet our requirements--primarily, that they lack stable access to utility power at home and school--we will endeavor to work with them.  Hence our Eastern European connection in Romania. pleasantridge1

Through a partnership with Pleasant Ridge Church in western North Carolina, we supplied Gypsy students and their teachers in Hirip and Satu Mare, Romania, with access to a world of news and educational programming through our manufacturer-donated Grundig self-powered radios.

ETOW would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Jim Smith, who hand-delivered four radios on Pleasant Ridge's recent visit to Romania. In a letter to us, he writes,

I would like to personally thank you for the gift of...shortwave radios...During our trip to Hirip and Satu Mare, Romania, we gave these radios on your behalf to the following [teachers and community] leaders:

Ramona Herosovics...a teacher of English and Current events in a school working with Gypsy upper high school-aged students, as well as some of our seminary students, in Satu Mare, Romania...She will be using the radios to teach English to these students. She will be sending a second radio home with them for English projects. Since many of the students do not have power in the[ir] homes, these radios will be exceptional.

pleasantridge2Radios 3 & 4...will be used in the classrooms of a small village school in Hirip, Romania. A teacher travels three days a week to the school to teach there. Sometimes each week [these schools have] a different teacher. The main superintendent...accepted these radios and they were used in the classroom while we were there. There is no power in this building...The teachers will use them to teach current events as well as English and the radios can be checked out after school each day for homework and brought back the next day for classroom use.

Pleasant Ridge Church has maintained a strong relationship with these schools and Gypsy communities in Romania for over 13 years. Through their long-term committment to Hirip and Satu Mare, our partnership with Pleasant Ridge will insure sustained support over the long term, and we hope to supply even more of the teachers and students in these areas with our self-powered radios.

Copyright © 2013 Ears To Our World