A Camosun College program spawned by donations of secondhand cellphones to Africa is at risk of being discontinued due to cutbacks.
Africa Calling collects discarded cellphones and sends them to villages in rural Africa to provide a much-needed service, said founder Kevin Davis.
“Many Africans don’t have Internet or bank accounts, but with a cellphone they can text and exchange money. Instead of having a cash or a bank card they have a phone,” said Davis, a third-year sociology student at UVic.
The project began when one of Davis’ teachers asked for help after a trip to Africa.
“I was taking a sociology course called ‘An Intro to Africa.’ The professor asked if any of us would collect cellphones for him to take to villages as life lines. We put a team of six students together and in no time we had collected a ton of phones. We got such great feedback from people that I decided to carry on.”
In fact, Africa Calling as a class project was so successful that Camosun College adapted it into a full-fledged sociology course, Service Learning and Global Issues, in 2013.
The advantage of the course is its “real-world” teaching style, Davis said.
“You take something you are passionate about in life, say photography, and we teach you to apply it to a world issue. Instead of just memorizing information, you’re actually doing something.
“It’s really sad that we could lose (a program) that’s so cutting edge, just because of money. It’s really devastating.”
Africa Calling donation boxes – they look like old English phone booths – are set up at various locations on Camosun College and University of Victoria campuses.
Davis says the phones provide some rural African areas with a lot more than the ability to communicate: they can offer a new lease on life.
“Phones are what (Africans) are asking for. It completely changes their world.”
For more information about Africa Calling, visit africacalling.ca.