Why We Do This

Africa Calling started out as a class project, but right from the start we knew something was different.

When a random group of college students assigned to a class project gets along effortlessly, desires extra work, and shows up to weekend meetings, you know something is different!

Why Are We Doing This?

Our original goal was to complete a service learning project for a second year college level sociology course studying Africa by providing poor rural villages in Ghana, Africa with cell phones that would primarily act as medical lifelines, aid development, teach literacy, and connect families.

The class ended, but we didn’t want Africa Calling to end, and our future goals are evolving as fast as we are. Through reusing this popular technology, we are connecting people, teaching literacy, saving lives, promoting education, helping countries in development, teaching students and the general public, and reducing the overall human footprint. We are asking other college and university students to join us from all over North America in this open invitation to make an impact on our world without the use of money by introducing the African philosophy of Ubuntu to North American culture.

Our new goals and aspirations are rapidly developing out of the new uses these unwanted working cell phones are providing to both people in Africa as well as here in North America. We are planning to become a registered charity foundation that provides developing countries and disadvantaged people within North America with unwanted working cell phones, all powered by the people’s will to make this a reality – without using money.*

*For more information on this concept please read How This Works.

We had our doubts if anyone would actually give us their old phones; after-all, these things aren’t cheap.

With family members spread across the country, and no money for shipping, we weren’t sure how this was going to work. The goal in the beginning was to gather as many phones as possible to enable our professor to personally distribute these phones on his up-coming trip to Africa. He was then going to place all of these phones in the care of community elders in remote villages to act as medical lifelines for their entire communities.

This project was taking on a life of its own.

After our professor discovered that within two months we had collected hundreds of phones, he decided to concentrate a limited number of those first cell phone donations (70 phones in total) on illiterate women, and make a return trip in one year to assess their progress. Our story was picked up by some local newspapers and we began meeting regularly and realized early on that this “little class project” wanted to grow, and we were very lucky to be going along for the ride. It took some time to resonate, but we were, and still are, learning lessons that just aren’t taught in textbooks. We were generating large numbers of cell phones without SIM cards which could not be used in Africa. We were told by a Student Society member that some of the local shelters may have a use for them, and after calling every organization we could find in the phone book, we realized a brand new need right here in our own city. The need for our project was changing and growing and this was beginning to shape our plans for the future.

Ubuntu is magical; it’s empowering, and it started bringing smiles to people’s faces and warmth into their hearts.

The project was started in an African Studies course. In that class, we were introduced to Ubuntu. What was needed to make this project work was the spirit of this African tradition to come to North America, but would this African tradition physically translate into our North American culture? The answer is yes.

Ubuntu is an African philosophy that loosely translates into English as: people are people because of [other] people.

Just like students, more and more people these days have no money left to give, but still have a nagging desire to help. Then it began to crystalize; if this was going to work, it would have to work without money, and everything from collecting, shipping, and distributing the phones must be done entirely in the spirit of Ubuntu. That means no cash donations; not a single penny will ever be solicited to accomplish our goals now or in the future. *For more information on this concept please read How This Works.

*For a complete definition, look up Ubuntu in Wikipedia, or watch Nelson Mandela describe it in a short video on YouTube by typing in Ubuntu Philosophy.

How do you define success?

There is something that energizes a group about working from a stance of success; we decided that even if we collected one phone, helped only one village, we could consider our project a total success. Receiving our very first donation of five phones, all from one person, it changed our way of thinking. We no longer had any doubts; we were successful. Now with new Africa Calling groups forming in different cities and some distribution and shipping to Africa in place, and this generously donated website, we are preparing for this success to continue by inviting other students to join us.


We accidently stumbled on to a way to give back, and physically make a difference in people’s lives and our world, all without money.

Wanting to get the word out on campus, we set up information booths. The support we received was encouraging, and we started to get a sense of the important work we were doing when one day a student stopped by and told us that when she was in Africa, she visited a village where one cell phone was used for the entire village of 1500 people. This focussed the importance of our project; we were beginning to see how we are helping potentially hundreds of people with every cell phone we collected.

Positive reinforcement fuels positive results.

As we told people about our project, people told us how much they liked what we were doing, and encouraged us to continue. As we spread the word, citizens from all walks of life, teachers, friends and family members, school officials, business leaders, newspaper reporters, city officials, charity groups, students at various grade levels, and ourselves were actually beginning to help people halfway around the world, and it was all happening without money. It was happening entirely because people wanted it to happen. We finally started to realize what others had seen in the beginning. This was a way for people and companies with a desire to help to improve the quality of people`s lives by doing what they can, and offering their skills, without the use of money. That was the connection. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were essentially becoming a bridge which allowed others to connect all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, sharing in their common humanity by simply donating their old cell phones, or volunteering a service. It wasn’t intended, or even fully realized by us, but people that started supporting us instinctively understood Ubuntu.

Talking and textbooks does nothing tangible, and most other charities are asking for money. For many of us, students or citizens, our hands feel tied; donating money is just out of the question.

As students, sitting in classrooms and learning about people and nations less fortunate then ourselves, this type of knowledge has a tendency to stir up strong emotions at times.Talk sometimes spill out of the classroom and into the hallways and courtyards, and unfortunately all too often leaves us wondering what can be done, and feeling helpless. A lot of us (not just students) feel small and insignificant, seemingly powerless in a world filled with billions of people, and physically too far away to lend a helping hand. Here was our chance; we were no longer isolated, and people and companies proved to us that they even wanted this to succeed. This has become a reality.

What happened next was amazing, and proved the goodness of people through the magic of Ubuntu.

We began to see that people were instantly drawn to the idea, and they sensed they were truly connected. They knew that their old cell phones would actually reach a remote community, and that one phone now has the potential to make a positive impact, and in some cases, on hundreds or thousands of people’s lives, over and over again.

To our surprise, all sorts of people that had never heard of Ubuntu were embracing this age-old African tradition. It’s mystical. Even if you don’t have a phone to donate yourself, you probably know someone that does, and then that becomes your personal way of giving back. It empowers us as individuals; almost magically, the reality of actually making a global change sets in. It certainly took us by surprise.

We decided the best way to keep this, is to give it away. It’s like bottled happiness: open one up, and everyone in the room smiles!

We now want to share this experience with the entire student population in North America, so we decided the best way to achieve this was to invite other students to join in this project so they themselves, and others in their communities, could experience the same joy and sense of empowerment that we are experiencing being involved with a project driven by students.

This is not just about collecting old phones; it’s about recapturing something many of us feel we have lost - the power of the people, renewing the faith in ourselves as individuals, and collectively affecting real-life-changes – on a global scale.

At some point, in many of our lives, we are touched by those isolating feelings of helplessness. Together we have the power to help others - using just our voices. When you tell someone about Africa Calling, you have just overcome those feelings by using your voice, and potentially helping hundreds of people. You are saving lives; you are making people’s existence brighter; you are connecting loved ones, and that goodness in turn tells us something about ourselves. That something is best described as the true essence of being human; you have just experienced the magical power of Ubuntu.

The biggest reason we do this?

This project makes us feel good and generates something we like to call The Smile Factor!