When Keith Parsons over at the Institute for Network Professionals (www.inpnet.org) emailed me asking if I’d be interested in a “bunch of Compaq M300 laptops” I was absolutely thrilled. Laptops here are WICKED expensive and even the “new” ones aren’t new. We have such a small budget as an organization that it’s nearly impossible for us to buy the equipment we need to outfit the schools and community centers we’re planning to stand up. Thirty laptops would go a REALLY long way, as long as they were capable of running XP (for the schools) or Linux (for the community center).
But I was skeptical of the whole thing. Not of Keith or the laptops, but of the shipping process. I liked the idea of 30 or so laptops showing up “on my doorstep” but the way was fraught with all sorts of variables and perils. First was the transport logistics: there was stateside shipping, then cargo shipping, then transport from the airport to our place. During any of these legs, the precious cargo could be damaged, stolen, pilfered, mugged, assaulted, absconded with or taunted. Then there were the fees. I know cargo shipping is expensive, but in addition to that there are import taxes (don’t know how that works) and handling fees (I know how that works thanks to our friend I affectionately call “Ronnieobert”, see http://www.hackersforcharity.org/344/the-eagle-has-landed/) and all the other mysterious fees that creep in. Would this shipment make it? Would it even be worth it after everything was paid? Was Keith just saying stuff or was he serious about testing, packing, shipping and everything else to even get it to our shipper? (I get lots of people saying lots of nice things, but then not much comes of it. I guess I have that kind of magnetic personality that makes people want to say nice things but never follow up. Either that or my SLOW email habits scare them away, or whatever, but I digress at least once every blog post.)
Chris Duke over at Navis Pack and Ship (http://www.gonavis.com) packed up our shipment, ran logistics and DONATED the shipping expenses so this shipment could get here.
And it did!
The shipment arrived at Entebbe,and we packed up the HFC truck and rolled out for the three-hour drive to Entebbe. We got in a fender bender (a taxi took off our bumper in town… an inevitability seeing how they drive… thank God it wasn’t worse) but we made good time.
Let me show you the result of a day’s labor:
See those GORGEOUS CASES? The black ones are honest to goodness Pelican cases!!! Super tough, padded, locking, wheeled Pelicans! And that blue case is some kind of rock band case. Super-tough padded, oh man… I must be a real geek, because I’m like giddy over the cases. Keith threw them in. But I didn’t open them at the airport, so I had no clue what was inside.
But at the airport I was met with a mountain of fees. The first was taxes, which we’ll eventually get waived. But because I didn’t know to tell Keith or Chris to write down the value of the used equipment, we were charged taxes on the peripherals, but not on the laptops, which are already tax exempt.
That’s right. Peripherals.
There’s peripherals in them cases! Are you ready for the money shot? Christmas in August in Africa. *drooool*
There’s enough wireless gear in here to give Roamer a chubby. Wireless cameras, hubs, routers, KVM’s, VOIP gear, training DVD’s, and a LEATHERMAN Skeletool CX. Remember that? See http://www.hackersforcharity.org/123/bike-leatherman This was so much more that 30 (very cool, working, clean, amazing) laptops. Keith went way overboard and launched our work over here in Uganda. We paid some money: $100 for taxes on peripherals, $45 cargo agent fee, $10 to the loaders, $20 to the guards at our rest stop, $100 in fuel, etc but the fees were minimal considering all we got in exchange.
Thank you Chris and Keith for your amazing support! I’m thrilled by your kindness and support! You’ve breathed life into our work here! THANK YOU!
P.S. We’re accepting more donations of used equipment, but the clock may be ticking for this luxury. The government has just passed a moratorium on used equipment. Beginning in January, 2010, all used equipment will be “heavily taxed”. I don’t know the details on this, and there may be loopholes… (educational equipment waived? Tax is based on value, can the declared value be lowered to lower taxes… finding items on ebay, company equipment at accounting end of life having LOW book value, etc?)
I’m waiting on Chris to see if he’s still willing to ship for us (if we pay him) and I’ll need a team of volunteers near Greensboro, NC to be the ship-to location and the staging team for shipments (including testing, prep, valuating, etc). Let me know if you’re interested!!!
wow. my eyes actually are welling up. this is good news man. are you a registered school or educational institution/ngo? i such cases you are supposed to be tax free. i’ll give you a URA number to ring to chat with a good friend of mine.
Quite impressed & happy feeling about on the above note… but somewhere i feel that building knowledge into machines will be limited & risk factor… why not we teach them agricultural farming to cultivate for better survival rather than to starve? thoughts please… thanks!
Merry Christmas indeed! Even my ol’ heart is beating double time. GEEK ON!!
Vinayak- Thanks for the comment. We don’t teach starving kids. We feed starving kids through our food for work program. We teach computer skills to kids in established schools that teach all the other life skills, including things like agriculture, math, language, art, etc. Besides that, we’re hackers. We breathe technology. HFC exists to use the skills of the hacking community (which is centered around technology) to help those less fortunate. Besides, would YOU eat any agricultural products grown by a bunch of computer hackers? I wouldn’t. It would probably be way too caffeinated for my tastes. =)
Jake- Yes, these shipments should be tax-free because they are for educational use. We just need the proper signatures and paperwork.