Building a “Freedom Kit” for the Emerging Poor

 

Open_cardboard_box_huskyI’m spitballing an idea here that I’d like to run past members for input. The concept is a “Freedom Kit” to be sold — likely, at a subsidy — to people emerging from poverty who want to take part in the modern world and gain some creature comforts and safety.

The objective should be to give a family maximum improvement in quality of life and future prospects in a portable package at a low cost (which I’m arbitrarily capping at $1,000 US). I’m excluding firearms, as that would — I imagine — be legally difficult. Assume further that customers have shelter, live in the tropics, and lack reliable energy. All products should be new.

So, within these limitations, what should go into such a kit? Here’s my first draft:

Contents of a Proposed “Freedom Kit”:

  • Goal Zero Yeti 150 & Nomad 20 Solar kit and a universal AC adapter (total: $436). Provides functional — if limited — access to electrical energy with some storage capacity for night time use and/or days without much sun. The Yeti has multiple outputs, including USB, 12v, and — most importantly — an AC inverter, meaning you can plug any household electronic device into it.
  • A pair of Goal Zero LED lights ($80) for nighttime illumination; a little pricey, but Goal Zero makes good stuff and these can both be powered off the Yeti.
  • Lenovo Tab 2 tablet ($185) This is a well-reviewed, inexpensive tablet with an impressive battery life. Let’s pre-load it with a lot of free eBooks.
  • Mosquito nets ($100): I don’t know much about the subject, but popular, well-reviewed models on Amazon typically run for less than $20. Let’s include five.
  • A pump water microfilter, 5-gallon storage bottleUV sterilizer pen, with a battery charger for the latter ($195). This ensures access to safe drinking water under almost all circumstances.

Total Cost: $996, giving people power, lighting, computing, mosquito protection, and access to clean water.

Of course, this leaves a great many matters unaddressed, including:

  • A clean, indoor-safe stove (I believe the Yeti is poorly suited to powering an electrical stove, and I don’t think it’s possible to get enough gas/propane into a portable package to work).
  • First aid and hygiene.
  • Clothes washing.

Thoughts, Ricochet? What else am I missing? Did I put too much funds into electronics? Has someone beat me to the idea?

There are 40 comments.

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  1. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    I think the tablet, even preloaded with ebooks, is probably a waste given that these people are likely to lack an internet connection. A better use of resources would be something like:

    Amazon Kindle preloaded with ebooks $79.99

    All Seasons Solar Cooker $99.99: http://www.amazon.com/All-Season-Solar-Cooker-Trivet/dp/B00CURWARM

    This solves both the education and cooking problem.

    It leaves first aid and hygiene untouched.

    • #1
  2. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Not to be cynical, but I think a lot of poor people would probably sell this stuff to buy food and alcohol. Also, a tablet doesn’t do any good without access to WiFi.

    I do think it’s a good idea, however, and would help some people. I support micro loans to third world small business people and my church has a program that provides education loans to young people in developing countries that I also support financially. All of these sorts of programs are worthwhile if you can keep the overhead low and include accountability as part of the program.

    • #2
  3. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Jamie Lockett: I think the tablet, even preloaded with ebooks, is probably a waste given that these people are likely to lack an internet connection. A better use of resources would be something like:

    Not a bad point, but my thinking was that the tablet’s additional functionality (word processing, etc.) would also count as a bonus. Moreover, having the capability for websurfing could be useful if/when local hotspots installed and I imagine the device could be paired with a mobile phone to gain some limited access to data.

    Still, your suggestion would fee-up a lot of money and the eBooks themselves are an enormous value.

    • #3
  4. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    As for water purification, what about somethign like LifeStraw Family:

    http://lifestraw.eartheasy.com/products/lifestraw-family

    Cheaper and allows us to include other things in the package.

    • #4
  5. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Jamie Lockett:http://lifestraw.eartheasy.com/products/lifestraw-family

    Cheaper and allows us to include other things in the package.

    Interesting. I have some regular lifestraws and they’re pretty cool. Are they as effective as having the UV light as well?

    • #5
  6. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Jamie Lockett:http://lifestraw.eartheasy.com/products/lifestraw-family

    Cheaper and allows us to include other things in the package.

    Interesting. I have some regular lifestraws and they’re pretty cool. Are they as effective as having the UV light as well?

    The marketing states 99.999% of viruses, bacteria etc. Plus it requires no electrical power so those resources can be used for other things.

    • #6
  7. KiminWI Inactive
    KiminWI
    @KiminWI

    Mean old conservatives, hatin’ on the poor again. Don’t let this get out; there must be some racist micro aggression in your plan somewhere and Buzzfeed is sure to find it.

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    $100 of DDT would protect the insides of their homes until their great-great-grandchildren are old and gray, and would have the advantage of making Rachel Carson fans cry.

    • #8
  9. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    High quality toolset. Hammer, mallets, screwdrivers, and supporting amounts of screws, nails etc.

    A dozen rolls of duct tape.

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Meanwhile, for people behind Internet firewalls, instructions on using Tor browser; and above all — a very good first aid kit with knowledge about how to use it.

    • #10
  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Meanwhile, for people behind Internet firewalls, instructions on using Tor browser; and above all — a very good first aid kit with knowledge about how to use it.

    Its not just those people that should get familiar with Tor – have you seen what the NSA is up to lately?

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Jamie Lockett: All Seasons Solar Cooker $99.99: http://www.amazon.com/All-Season-Solar-Cooker-Trivet/dp/B00CURWARM This solves both the education and cooking problem.

    Hmm.. the idea is to replace the need for an indoor open fire or kerosene stove, both of which are liable to start fires and cause smoke damage. I’m not sure a solar oven would work, but I could be wrong.

    • #12
  13. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    ToryWarWriter: High quality toolset. Hammer, mallets, screwdrivers, and supporting amounts of screws, nails etc.

    Good idea. Maybe this?

    • #13
  14. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: The concept is a “Freedom Kit” to be sold — likely, at a subsidy — to people emerging from poverty who want to take part in the modern world

    This is a contradiction in terms. Anything that maintains dependency, as subsidies do, and that maintains the power of the men in government handing out the subsidy (and that feeds those men’s addiction to the dependency on them of others), as subsidies do, is antithetical to Freedom.

    If they need financial help to get this stuff (and they likely will), provide it in the form of loans.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: A pump water microfilter, 5-gallon storage bottle, UV sterilizer pen, with a battery charger for the latter ($195). This ensures access to safe drinking water under almost all circumstances.

    Teach them to make solar stills, too. These will distill water from the ground and a variety of compostible materials. They can’t be used to detoxify water; too many toxic fumes have the same partial pressure as water and will evaporate out of the material and condense into the water collection device along with the water. The solar still will provide a significant fraction the needed potable water. A low grade such still can be had for the price of a shovel for digging a hole in the ground, a sheet of plastic to cover the hole, and a gallon jug for collecting the condensate.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: A clean, indoor-safe stove

    They can build a solar oven, too, for literally dirt cheap.

    What’s left out of this list, and I don’t have a good solution to offer, is a means of storage for the water, and the food. Jerked meat keeps for a while, but other foods?

    Also, teach them to dig wells, to distribute the water from the wells, and to maintain them.

    Re the tablet: aside from Mr Lockett’s view, the chauvinist in me says don’t buy anything from the PRC. If a tablet is useful, get a Samsung.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Tor browser

    This browser has been compromised and its anonymity protection lost.

    Eric Hines

    • #14
  15. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    anonymous: For more information, see the GravityLight Indiegogo page. They are setting up manufacture in Kenya.

    I considered the GravityLight and it’s an awesome product. But with the Yeti, you’ve got access to a light without the need to yank a weight every 20 minutes.

    On the other hand, switching out one of the Goal Zero lights for a GravityLight might be a good idea.

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Eric Hines: If they need financial help to get this stuff (and they likely will), provide it in the form of loans.

    I’m totally amenable to that.

    • #16
  17. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Computing power assumes literacy.

    • #17
  18. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    The original package sounds as though competent policing is provided for the recipients. Lacking competent policing, I suspect that this equipment will be remarketed.

    Perhaps a pedal-powered sowing machine with needles and thread, a bunch of cotton to make into things, and large, well drawn displays for how to use that machine would be good. If the lady can do some sowing, she can earn some money.

    If a central cite near her can be set up for women just like the sowing lady, even better. Let them share experiences of using the equipment and selling their products.

    A loom might work as well, if enough material is available to the ladies to start making carpets or whatever one makes on a loom.

    The benefit to making something is that the maker can see the results and measure the time involved in the effort. An important part of measuring the worth of the finished product includes the time spent making the finished product.

    Lastly, there are companies in the US which bring in such items and sell them. If these ladies had access to US retail outlets which would handle their products, even very small retail outlets, their understanding of business would grow and hopefully their wealth would grow with it.

    • #18
  19. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    It seems you could by a lot of seeds for a small part of that $1000. Hay what about 5# of cheese?

    • #19
  20. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Who will get this into the right hands so that the items aren’t stolen and sold at a big discount, or merely resold at a bigger discount from the beginning. But if enough are sent the price may drop sufficiently in the secondary market so folks could afford them. On the other hand some of this stuff could be popular so that it becomes an introduction to the product and those with enduring interests in its success and spread may put in the effort to make items in the package successful, i.e. the people who make or sell them. Or if it seems to actually get to the right people and become really useful, some liberal NGO will figure out how to turn it into a permanent source of salary perks and income. If it works, the way it will work is that beneficiaries will keep the stuff they like and can use and will sell the rest. This gives them some cash and gets useful things into the local market. Their peers see what’s useful and seek the good stuff. Markets are opened up. Of course governments or local thugs will find some way to rip it off and kill it. These places aren’t poor by accident.

    • #20
  21. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    donald todd: Perhaps a pedal-powered sowing machine with needles and thread, a bunch of cotton to make into things, and large, well drawn displays for how to use that machine would be good. If the lady can do some sowing, she can earn some money. If a central cite near her can be set up for women just like the sowing lady, even better. Let them share experiences of using the equipment and selling their products.

    It would, indeed, need honest policing. Spirit of America did exactly this in Iraq a few years ago. The Iraqi women so equipped made too much money; their sewing machines were stolen/confiscated not too long later.

    I Walton: Who will get this into the right hands….

    Spirit of America makes such direct deliveries, or in quasi- or near-combat zones, it uses US military units in the area to make the last-mile deliveries. The goodies didn’t go through the local government, and it generally bypassed the US government beyond getting a supportive Pentagon to help with transportation into the area and to otherwise keep functionaries out of the way.

    Eric Hines

    • #21
  22. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    I Walton: Who will get this into the right hands so that the items aren’t stolen and sold at a big discount, or merely resold at a bigger discount from the beginning.

    As Eric pointed out, loans largely solve this matter.

    • #22
  23. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    EJHill:Computing power assumes literacy.

    Yes and no. I’ve seen toddlers do a frightening lot with a tablet.

    One additional thought in defense of a tablet over a Kindle reader: audio. Among other things, this could (better) address the illiterate and provide help with language learning.

    • #23
  24. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    EJHill:Computing power assumes literacy.

    Yes and no. I’ve seen toddlers do a frightening lot with a tablet.

    One additional thought in defense of a tablet over a Kindle reader: audio. Among other things, this could (better) address the illiterate and provide help with language learning.

    Kindle Fire as a compromise on the tablet?

    • #24
  25. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    The King Prawn: Kindle Fire as a compromise on the tablet?

    Not a bad idea. Or, for $30 more, we could make it a Fire HD.

    • #25
  26. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    anonymous: The GravityLight is a solution for providing indoor lighting to eliminate the risk and fuel expense of kerosene lanterns. It does not require a solar panel or batteries (solar energy may be problematic in areas with protracted cloudy seasons). Here is a video about it:

    Geez John for a moment I thought you were describing a Glowglobe…I almost got jealous of your accesses to unheard of technologies.

    • #26
  27. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    Let’s all keep in mind that whatever individual or organization would purchase these “Freedom Kits” for distribution — whatever may turn out to be the actual components — could easily negotiate a 50 percent discount from each of the manufacturers. Every manufacturer in the world gives a 50 percent discount on bulk purchases. If I understand correctly, Tom is providing the retail price….so in fact there’s a lot more elbow room to work with.

    • #27
  28. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    In the most desperately poor parts of the world, the biggest problem is land ownership. Before I did anything, I would figure out a way to ensure that people could own a piece of land with which they could start to build up some capital.

    One of the problems in Africa is that the poor people are tenant farmers or nomads.

    By the way, land ownership is a big problem in Hawaii as well. It is a problem all over the world. Frankly, it is a problem even in some countries in Western and Eastern Europe.

    It’s too bad that Gates and Zuckerberg can’t talk their fellow wealthy people in foreign countries into parting with some of the land they are not using.

    It’s too bad the U.S. government doesn’t give up some of the land it is not using to the poor as well. Talk about monopoly, . . .

    • #28
  29. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Herbert E. Meyer:Let’s all keep in mind that whatever individual or organization would purchase these “Freedom Kits” for distribution — whatever may turn out to be the actual components — could easily negotiate a 50 percent discount from each of the manufacturers.Every manufacturer in the world gives a 50 percent discount on bulk purchases.If I understand correctly, Tom is providing the retail price….so in fact there’s a lot more elbow room to work with.

    There is also the possibility of appealing to their charity if one was to set up this as a charitable enterprise. Businesses love tax deductions.

    • #29
  30. Tim Wright Inactive
    Tim Wright
    @TimWright

    Something similar already exists, as a shelter box for refugees, etc.

    Shelterboxusa.org

    • #30

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