Where do I begin? It seems like these hard-to-write updates are becoming the norm.
Jason Kent, aka @jkentakula was here.
The story was interesting, and started with a pretty typical “how can I help?” con-versation. As it evolved, it was clear that this was no passing interest.
I was admittedly reserved as I talked to him. Five years of living off of donations has made me pretty shy about asking for things, and as I’m realizing, it’s made me shy about asking for help, too.
But Jason pushed. He really, really wanted to help. He jumped on the opportunity to buy and bring the Tippmann Boss. He used the money he received from a work bonus. That seemed like such a huge sacrifice, and I was thrilled about that machine. I knew it would make a huge difference for our program, allowing us to start working on bigger items, like cases and bags.
But Jason didn’t just “dump” the machine on us. He not only helped us put it together (I likely would have gotten VERY frustrated working on it by myself) but he taught me how to sew, because that’s something he knew about.
Even though I was the one with the leather working experience, he had constant insight that helped as we worked through our first project, a pair of sandals.
He offered up his advice tactfully. Despite his vast knowledge, he was always humble and could sense when advice was warranted, and when I just needed time to fiddle and work through things.
We powered through the sandals and started on the first bag prototype, which would be a long-overdue promised gift for my wife, Jen.
I messed that bag up, and Jason was there right by my side as it happened. He saw my frustration, and even though he couldn’t do anything about it, his company was welcome. It turns out that I need to spend more time in the leather shop if I want to help guys like Johnson get to the next level because Johnson is starving for more training as his skill level approaches my own.
But this failure was a learning experience, and like most problems in my path, I’m encouraged by Jason’s example to keep pushing through.
As it turned out, the machine wasn’t Jason’s most valuable contribution. Jason’s most valuable contribution was Jason. He didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t have a plan. He just came to help, and every hour of each day he did just that, in so many different ways.
Jason had read about Khalil’s visit and the Internet situation. He brought a bluecoat Proxy SG that he got a friend to donate “from his closet”.
He saw a need, and used his resources to help address that need. I was amazed when I saw that box, but my heart sunk because I knew I’d struggle with it. Jason dived right in, serialed in, got it rolling, and walked me through how it worked.
We pulled apart our Internet setup at the Keep (a solution that had been in place for four years and I didn’t wan’t to “mess up”) and we got it plugged in. Within minutes, it was caching HTTP objects and improving the “Internet experience”. But he wasn’t done. He saw that we had wi-fi dead spots, and asked if we had a repeater. I showed him one of our “donation boxes” and he pulled out a donated Ubiquity bullet, and some enterprise Cisco wireless gear (donated by Tim Rosenberg on his last trip!). His jaw dropped as he told me this was MORE than enough to solve our problem.
I knew it was, but I could never make the time to figure this stuff out, or even organize volunteers to help because I’m so busy just keeping my head above water. That’s why our internet solution was locked down for four years, because I can’t afford to break stuff in the name of “improvement”.
By this time, Jason knew this, so he dug in. First, the POE injector, then scrounging for cat6 (all I had was nine-inch patch cables from the Pelican Pi builds). He sat in the leather shop, where I was still working on the machine, and trying to get that sorted before he left and plugged away.
Within minutes, not only did he have the bullet working, but he had discovered that the 3G router at our house was in the wrong location and was starving our bandwidth. He proceeded to get wifi from all over our compound thanks to the bullet.
I was thrilled to have one less thing to figure out but I knew it could be weeks or months before I’d find time to hook it up and get it working at the Keep. Jason knew this, too and spent the next day at my side getting it installed.
This was no small deal. We had to perform a major upgrade our cafe software (now three years old), get the bullet and the ProxySG worked into our system, and debug everything. As if that wasn’t hard enough, all the African Problems (TM) snuck in, like the cafe software vendor refusing our credit card because we’re African, which means we might give them Ebola. We had to try it again through a proxy server, coming in from a free proxy in much-friendlier Detroit Michigan (!?!).
Oh, and then my Internet ran out, so I had to get airtime. So I ran to the shop, bought the airtime, and put it on my sim, then the MTN registration service was down, and giving me errors, so I tried it a half-dozen times. Three hours later, MTN “Woke up” and tried to apply $109 (30gb, one month) SIX TIMES! IT’s a good thing I didn’t have that much airtime, because I’d have been hosed, or having a torrent party.
But at the end of the day, the system was TOTALLY working, ready for me to pul the trigger on per-MB billing and simply install the new 3G modems/sim cards.
This process repeated itself over and over, with Jason seeing a need and jumping in. Sometimes it was helping install lightbulbs (I thought that would take more engineers, but one Jason was enough) and deal with the subsequent blown inverter fuses to installing a new door handle after our broken one locked him in the hallway more than once. He went on errands with me, to the hardware store, the market, the supermarket(s) and just helped with day-to-day stuff.
Jason is a hacker, and of course he was always thinking way outside the box, but he did it in some really creative ways with the other items he brought, including meds that we can’t get here and robotics/Arduino kits t help kickstart the Hackerspace.
He’s also ferrying a BRCK back to the States to help with that project, which is one of our most important projects.
Jason came, and gave of himself, sacrificing his time, his money, his vacation time and his skills. If he “simply” donated money, I would have been eternally grateful, but he gave of himself, and for that, I, my family, and HFC Uganda are forever changed.
Thank you, Jason. Safe travels, and we’ll see you soon.