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Chapter  1  - The Dialogue
Aselo's Hope: Helping Children Against Online Threats by Developing Tailored Tools for Communication in Zambia.

Emelda's day began like any other at the ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia call center. The room buzzed with the quiet hum of computers and the distant chatter of her colleagues. As she settled into her seat, little did she know that a single call would unveil the transformative power of technology, empathy, and collaboration.


Her headset blinked, indicating an incoming call. She picked up, her voice warm and comforting, "Hello, you've reached ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia. My name is Emelda. How can I help you today?"
On the other end, a tremulous voice whispered, "I don't know what to do. I'm scared." Emelda's heart clenched. She recognized the telltale signs of a child in distress.
Taking a deep breath, she coaxed gently, "It's okay. You're safe now. Can you tell me your name?"
The voice hesitated before responding, "My name is Amina (name changed)."

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Emelda could sense the fear in Amina's voice. "Amina, you're brave for reaching out. I'm here to listen and help you. Can you tell me what happened?"
Tears mingled with Amina's words as she recounted the torment she was enduring. Online bullying had escalated to forced sexual conversations and threats in case of not meeting up, and Amina felt trapped by faceless tormentors.


Emelda listened intently, her empathy unwavering. "Amina, I'm so sorry you're going through this. You don't have to face this alone. We're going to get through this together."
With gentle guidance, Emelda assured Amina that she had taken the right step in seeking help. Using the advanced technology provided by the recently introduced software, Aselo, Emelda recorded and retrieved the information while keeping Amina’s identity safe.

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Aselo is transforming the landscape
of child helplines

"Aselo is more than a tool we use now; it is making everything much more easy and professional," says Emelda, talking about her experience on a sunny day at the office. Funded by Safe Online and developed by Tech Matters, Aselo is a customizable, open-source contact center platform that bridged the gap between helplines and the children they serve. It allows communication via multiple platforms, meeting children where they are most comfortable.


Aselo is transforming the landscape of child helplines, departing from the conventional toll-free hotline approach to offer children and youth a broader range of communication options that align with their digital preferences. The versatile open source contact center platform empowers children and young people to connect with helplines using various communication channels, including voice, SMS, webchat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. 

This technological leap isn't limited to one country; it's expanding to more countries, initially launching in South Africa and Zambia. Aselo's growth is a testament to its commitment to empowering children and reshaping the landscape of child helplines, spreading globally to make a profound difference in the lives of countless young individuals. Beyond communication, Aselo is strengthening ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia in the fight against online threats. With automated reporting of online child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), it is empowering children like Amina with the resources to protect themselves. The platform streamlines the reporting process, forwarding crucial information to national portals and law enforcement agencies, in cases when necessary. In a digital world fraught with dangers, Aselo emerges as a light of hope.
 

Emelda's conversation with Amina was a testament to this transformation. With Aselo's support, she seamlessly offered professional assistance, ensuring that Amina's information was accurate, secure, and ready to be shared with the relevant authorities. This digital safeguard bolstered the credibility of Amina's case, urging authorities to take her plight seriously.

Before Aselo's introduction, the helpline's assistance was documented manually, leaving room for errors and delays. The notebooks that once held these precious stories were now replaced by an efficient and secure system. Aselo records, tracks, and reports data automatically, enabling ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia to not only respond faster but also to gather vital statistics for further analysis and development.

 

"Before Aselo, tracking and managing work, especially in assisting individuals feeling scared and threatened, was time-consuming and stressful for our team working day and night. Colleagues had limitations such as changing seats for different languages, inability to transfer calls, and manual recording of cases. Aselo transformed our efficiency – now, we can easily transfer calls, generate data efficiently, ensuring no room for data manipulation, and fully delivering on security and privacy. Time and energy are now managed much more effectively," says Ernest Chilufya, Human Resources and Administration Manager at ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia, as he shows the old call record notebooks.

"Other partners or officials can be provided with official reports, which makes our work also look professional in their eyes. We can easily follow up and offer better assistance now thanks to Aselo. We can now also generate statistics. For instance, which language is mostly used, through which channel; Facebook or WhatsApp or phone call, which age group or gender is reaching out to us, or in which area what kind of problems are being faced the most. This enables our work to be much more productive," shares Charles Moyo, Programs Director of ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia.

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"Thank you, Emelda.

You made me feel safe again."

Back in the call center, Emelda continued to provide Amina -and many others- with the emotional support she needed. With Amina's permission, she involved local law enforcement, ensuring that Amina's tormentors would face justice. She guided Amina through the process, reminding her that she was not alone in this fight.
As the call concluded, Amina's voice held a glimmer of newfound strength. "Thank you, Emelda. You made me feel safe again."Emelda smiled through the tears that welled up in her eyes. "Remember, Amina, you're not alone. We're here for you, and we're going to make sure you're safe."


As the sun set over Zambia, the call center remained a hub of activity. Aselo's screens flickered with messages, each one a testament to the power of technology harnessed for good. With Safe Online's investments, Tech Matters had created a lifeline that spanned borders, touching lives in South Africa, Zambia and furthermore. "Since introducing Aselo in Zambia in 2021, we've made significant strides, positively impacting the lives of over one hundred thousand of children. By the end of 2025, we aim to expand to supporting millions of children annually. This ambitious goal reflects our commitment to making a substantial difference in the lives of young people around the world," shares Jim Fruchterman, Founder/CEO Tech Matters. Through Safe Online’s support, Tech Matters has launched the first phase of implementation of Aselo in South Africa and Zambia. The next phase of this transformative project will expand its reach to Chile, India, Jamaica, Thailand, and Zimbabwe, further demonstrating Safe Online's commitment to enhancing child helplines worldwide through technology-driven solutions.

The story of Amina and Emelda was not just one of distress and despair; it was a triumph of courage, empathy, and innovation. In the digital age, where threats loomed large, Aselo emerged as a guardian, continuing to empower children to navigate the online world with confidence. ChildLine/LifeLine Zambia, underpinned by Aselo's capabilities, is continuing to shape further as a fortress of safety, a place where voices are heard, stories are shared, and futures can be rebuilt.

 

Amina's story echoes in the hearts of those who dedicate their lives to making the world a safer place for children. Her story underscores the importance of ensuring that children do not face fear and danger by themselves. This is where Aselo's role becomes vital, as it provides a significant digital advancement in protecting children online.

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