The idea of sending wind-up technology to those that need it most has really evident benefits - but how does the technology work?

The radios and torches available today are really smart products, and when the cost of replacement parts is considered, they're probably really good value at £35... here's [1]a website that sells them, and which facilitates sending radios and torches to communities that need them.

I'd really like to know how much the radios cost to make though, and how they're put together, so I sent this email to the Freeplay Foundation [2] to see what they can tell me...

Dear Freeplay,
I've really enjoyed reading about the projects described on your website, and I'm thinking about how to apply these solutions, torches and radios. There are a couple of different things I need to ask you - how much does one radio cost to make? How do the radios work, can I buy separate components to make a cheaper version myself? Where can we read the accounts for your charity? Do you ever use volunteers to help with the tasks associated with your foundation's work? If I can't afford to buy a radio or a torch to send overseas, is there any other way of helping out with your projects? Thanks in advance for your advice...

So let's see what they say - after all, there must be some way we can use such a good idea, even if we haven't got a spare amount of money to fund sending a radio!

A few quick facts...

  • Trevor Baylis [3] invented the clockwork radio - it was intended to help spread information about safe sex to communities that would not otherwise receive the messages we take for granted in richer communities. In turn, the safe sex message would hinder the progress of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
  • The Freeplay Energy Group was founded by Chris Staines and Rory Stear, who began to apply the technology to different types of application, such as torches and mobile phone chargers. Start-up costs for their South African company were provided by an insurance company. [4]
  • The Freeplay Foundation began in 1998, and is closely associated with the Freeplay Energy Group, distributing its products... Whether the Freeplay Energy Group uses its distribution channels to supply any goods other that Freeplay products I haven't found out!
  • Its work must surely have brought a real benefit to, well, as they point out themselves, millions! Distribution of units exceeds 300,000 in 40 developing nations. Moreover, one product, the Lifeline radio, has been designed specifically for applicaition in demanding environments, with a tough outer case and a child / family friendly interface. Marvellous!