Reducing poverty with MP3 players

A German couple has helped many rural women in Uganda with the mobile audiobooks to improve their lives.

Kora Koch lives in the small village of Kyamuliibwa in southwest Uganda. The 29-year-old teacher and industrial clerk from Bruchsal in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, made it into the Ugandan countryside three years ago: “At that time I had taken over the sponsorship for a Ugandan child from a distance in Germany so that I could go to school. Her parents were too poor.” Then the curiosity came and she flew out. Now she sees the child growing up in Kyamuliibwa and helping the rural women in the area.

Education via MP3 player

The young German manages more than 17 women’s groups in the villages in the Kalungu district in central Uganda. There, says Koch, a device that is helpful to many Africans has already made the rounds: the MP3 player. With the player, as she is briefly referred to here, Koch has provided information for many women in remote places in recent years, enabling them to live a better life: “It’s about health issues, nutrition, child care, but also ideas for income.

The women in the countryside have no access to information. That’s where the MP3 player comes in, because its contents provide valuable answers to many questions or completely new insights for some women about their bodies, hygiene, illnesses, and precautions. “The women are excited,” says Koch.

The idea of MP3 education comes from the Canary Islands (off the coast of northwestern Africa) where a German couple, Felicitas and Marcel Heyne launched the “Player Project.”

“We were sensitized to the problems of Africa,” says Felicitas Heyne. “Many women in developing countries have never attended school, and we in the West are so privileged by the constant flow of information available to us,” she notes. The psychologist and author sought a solution with her husband and found that “those who can not read must hear, preferably in their mother tongue.”

And so they founded the charitable aid organization “Uridu” for their development work. It is Arabic and means “I want.” The solar-powered MP3 audio players are robust and can be used at any time. The players do not simply convey knowledge, but also promotes discussions, and exchange of information among the people. “That makes it an ideal engine of change,” says Heyne.

The player works even under the most adverse environmental conditions and its built-in solar cell makes it functional anywhere.

Audiobook needs are growing

“In consultation with local organizations in Africa, we pack the educational content on the MP3 players, tailor-made for the needs of women in their regions,” says Heyne.

The couple started with a self-financed project in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, then went to Tanzania and Uganda. Several smaller relief groups exist in the Congo, but women’s groups in Nepal, Paraguay, and Rwanda are currently being formed and equipped with mobile audiobooks.

The demand is growing: “We could start 20 new projects directly, but we first have to get more money from sponsors,” says Heyne. The couple has so far used a lot of their own capital, but in the long term companies and hopefully, governments should be involved in the information campaign.

According to Heyne, the MP3 players with their content cost about $25 USD each, including shipping, and lasts for three to five years.

Helping people help themselves

The feedback is fantastic. “Tuberculosis has declined in the Ugandan villages where the players are distributed. One woman learned that her disability is not a punishment of God. Another one heard that her cough came from smoking – now she has set up a smoking cessation group – it changes her life.” “The examples of success are many. The player explains how to make soap,” says Heynes.

The help for self-help arrives. A player is distributed to a group of ten to twelve women. When health worker Kora Koch once again drives to the villages on Boda-Boda, she has many questions.