Africa Calling: cast-off phones collected to serve people and planet

- Anne MacLaurin

A red “London style” phone box is now stationed in the UVic SUB—the first of hopefully many drop off locations for the Africa Calling project.

“I hope every building on campus will have a red drop box,” says project founder, Kevin Davis. “The more unwanted phones we collect the more communities we can help in Africa.”

Africa Calling began at Camosun College three years ago as part of a sociology service learning project. Sociology student Kevin Davis and five others started to collect unwanted cell phones with the intention of shipping them to Africa.

“It really took off,” says Davis, “we had over 400 unwanted cell phones within two months of the project starting.” Now, three years later Africa Calling has collected a total of 3,000 cell phones, almost all of which are sent directly to remote villages and programs in Africa. (Some donated phones won’t work in Africa, and these are donated to local shelters in Victoria.)

In some cases an unwanted cell phone has become a virtual lifeline for medical emergencies in rural communities in Africa. One phone in the hands of a community elder can make a difference in hundreds of people’s lives, explains Davis.

“In everything we do we follow the African Ubuntu philosophy—‘the universal truth’ that people are people because of [other] people,” says Davis. “We operate without asking for money or donations.”

Following the Ubuntu philosophy has worked so far for Davis and his volunteers. Everything from the building of the website to the transportation used to ship the phones oversees has been gratis.

Africa Calling has also been a success in the classroom. Camosun College created a new Service Learning and Global Issues course based on the model of success by the Africa Calling project. The Africa Calling project exemplifies the way humans can network together and solve social issues and change lives, explains Camosun sociology instructor Dr. Francis Adu-Febiri.

Now at UVic, Davis is studying sociology, and hopes the campus community will embrace Africa Calling and donate their unwanted cell phones to the project. “Just look for the red phone box,” says Davis, who adds it’s hard to miss the four-foot tall call box. Students and the community can find out more online at africacalling.ca.

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Keywords: africa, calling


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