Class configuration design strategy…

I believe this is similar to the strategy implemented in {Rails.root}/config/environments/{test|development|production}.rb. It’s proven useful to me for adding configuration to an independent library:

class Foo
  class << self
    attr_accessor :config

    def configure()
      self.config ||=

  class Configuration
    attr_accessor :hostname

    def initialize
      @hostname = '' #default value

This code would allow you to set up an initializer that could look like:

Foo.config do |config|
  config.hostname = ""

You can then use the instance of config in your class to make a method:

class Foo
      puts "this method is crawling: #{Foo.config.hostname}"

It's similar to #{Rails.root}/config/environments/development.rb:

ApplicationName::Application.configure do


Just a few images that are typical of some of the construction that goes on here. It’s one of many images that make you say, “really?” I think we’re going to make a t-shirt that simply says “really?”

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Here’s what $2000 US looks like in Leons. We’re looking at close to $8M Leons that we carried in a black bag from Western Union down town. It was pretty obvious what was in the bag.

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A few interesting pictures from different parts of where I’m staying….

This is a picture of the fishermen going out from the beach that our hotel is next to. I believe they’re dropping bait out in the water to attract the fish while they run a long net that they drag out from the shore and then pull in using a team of very strong men with hands of steel (no gloves involved in pull these ropes).

This next picture is of the cottonwood tree that is positioned pretty close to the middle of town. The history of this tree can be found on wikipedia – or at least one of the many versions that is told.

You’ll see many of these carts around town being used to haul all sorts of material around. The boy carrying this one is probably returning it back to be filled with another load. I’ve seen men with incredibly muscular arms and upper body carrying these loads, drenched in sweat. Some of these guys mush be able to pick up cars.

Here we are up near the University that sits on top of one of the hills in Freetown (I’m forgetting the name right now). Ed, one of the accountants from Hope Micro, is taking Ben and I around town to show us some of the sites.

This is an access point to an escape tunnel from the first world war. It’s completely open for anyone who’s brave enough to begin the several mile journey down the tunnel. I really wanted to go, obviously, but both Ben and Ed assured me that, if I didn’t get eaten by the snakes or the spiders, some other large creepy crawly thing would be sure to make me disappear down there.

I so wanted to go. But, for the sake of my wife, who’d probably chew me out for even thinking about it, I didn’t give-in to the temptation.

These are kids who come up to the top of the hill where there’s fresh water to fill the yellow tanks that they carry here. It’s one of the few places that you can get fresh water so this is probably a frequent trip that they make. We drove a car up the hill.

Here’s my friend Abraham with us at Kent Beach, enjoying the water rushing into the shore.

This is a photo of a city that Ed said would be very difficult to get to because of the roads. Salone is still working on repairing it’s infrastructure but we were able to get to Ken Beach via one of the new highways and it was a very nice ride. More evidence that things are changing for the better in Salone.

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Here are some pictures from our demonstration of how someone would ‘cash-out’ their loan at a local Splash Cash Agent. These ‘agents’ are riddled around the town and they provide points where one can ‘cash-in’ (put money into their account) and ‘cash-out’ (remove money from their account).

The difficult part is making sure agents has sufficient cash and points. How do you convince a vendor in Freetown to keep enough capital around in their account when the average person is living pretty close to the margins on a daily basis. Getting a grasp of this issue is one of the reasons why this trip has proved to be very interesting.

View from the office…

Here’s a view from the office window at Hope Micro. There’s an incredible amount that goes on outside which made it very difficult at first to concentrate on what I was doing.

In the end, though, I made an ‘adjustment’. Or you could say that Freetown adjusted me and I eventually gave in. Either way, I have to say that this is a special place. This may sound a little overly dramatic but I think people really want to connect with you at a deeper level here. Conversations don’t leave much to hide. That could be because they just don’t have much in their possession either.


Here are some photographs of me with SD and Suley, of Hope Micro, working on diagramming their loan process. We spend a few days articulating the specific steps that they go through in as much detail as possible so that we can show how this new effort would change things.

After interrogating SD, Suley and a few other staff members, I put together a diagram that described each step of their process and included who was doing what. The ‘who’ being clients, cashiers, loan officers, accountants, MIS administrators, and branch managers with the ‘what’ being represented in boxes and arrows and text descriptions of them.

Once this was completed, I went over and highlighted which steps would be removed and which would be added based on how we would use Splash Cash.

Thanks to Ryan and Aliya from the Grameen Foundation for suggesting this process. All in all, it provided a good way talk through the changes with Hope Micro. I hope it can be used in future upgrades to their process as well.


Oy vey, it’s been a while since I last posted something here. Been pretty busy trying to figure out how to finalize what we’ve accomplished and move on to the next steps. But I’ll try to recap a bunch of stuff.

First off, for those of you who don’t know a lot about what I’m doing here in Freetown, here’s a brief explanation:

Ben and I are working with Hope Micro to set up their MIS (accounting system) to the resident mobile payment system, Splash Cash, using FrontlineSMS:Credit. Specifically, we’re using this strategy to make loan disbursements and payments more efficient, both for the customer and Hope Micro.

Hope Micro is a microfinance institution (MFI) that has it’s main branch in Freetown as well as other branches around the area:

Central Branch (Head Office), 5 Bailey Street, Brookfields, Freetown
Kissy Branch, 221A Bai Bureh Road, Kissy, Freetown
Makeni Branch, 20 Soldier Street, Makeni
Magburaka Branch, 23 Makeni Road, Magburaka

They provide group loans and individual loans, however, their group loans are most likely going to be phased out.

I believe the NGO that started Hope Micro is called ‘World Hope’. They also started an organization called “First Step” that is working on creating an industrial zone in Freetown that will attract businesses to set up factories and develop industries.

Splash Cash is a mobile payment system that uses text messages (SMS) to handle transactions from one party to another. They use text messages because it allows them to be ‘carrier agnostic’ (they can work with Zain, Africell, or any other cell phone organization in the area).

Our trip to Beach #2. An amazing experience. Wading through the water reminded me of a picture book that I read when I was a child, about the ocean. The water was so clear and warm. Combine that with the surrounding scenery makes for almost a surreal moment.


…fishing boats. One of these caught the barracuda that we ate after our trip down “River #2”. Probably the best mean I have had in Salone.

…walking through the sand as it squeaks under your feet.

…our friend Mohammed took us down “River #2”.

…torrential rain!!




In Freetown, Sierra Leone, girls strike over privatization of their schools

Girls were running down the street last week chanting, “We gonna strike! No privatize!”, in defiance to the measure coming from the minister of education to privatize schools in Sierra Leone. What’s worse, the minister was looking only to privatize the girls school. The president, however, blocked the measure (from what I have heard).

In the background you can hear my good friend, Abraham’s voice, informing me on what the girls are yelling as well as the background on the whole story. This is the same Abraham who has been looking out for me – even though I feel completely safe here in Salone. He doesn’t have much yet is a gracious individual. This is very typical of Salonians – wonderful people in a beautiful country.