Solar Is Illuminating Lives in Malawi

by | Oct 12, 2018 | LTBLI news and updates

Let There Be Light International’s Founding Board Member, Ben Kerman, recently spent a week in Malawi on LTBLI business. He visited off-grid communities and solar beneficiaries, collecting information and assessing our solar programming in Malawi. Most importantly, he concludes that effective programs like ours rely on excellent local partners. He reports that a willingness to be flexible when challenges arise helps to keep things light when the power goes out. Or, the car breaks down, the boat takes on water or the phones don’t work.

Arrival in Malawi

Walking out of Blantyre’s airport, I wondered if my rendezvous with the Director of LTBLI’s local solar partner would actually happen. Unfortunately, I had no language skills, no backup hotel, and a US cell phone without a signal. Things could get interesting quickly. If I couldn’t find Francis of Compassionate Missions Center, what then?

Ten long minutes passed. Suddenly, there was Francis with his infectious smile and warm embrace. Francis is nearing 50 and is strong of heart, tall of spirit and exudes a bottomless optimism. Showing the gentle warmth for which his country is known, Francis welcomed me into his home at the orphanage run by CMC.

Background to our Solar Involvement in Malawi

A landlocked, least-developed country, Malawi battles entrenched poverty. In fact, more than 50% of Malawians live on less than $1/day. Consequently, accessing solar lights through market-based solutions is not a viable option for many. Most of the village residents I met scratch out a living through subsistence farming.  Others engage in informal activities like selling firewood. Certainly, Malawi is made richer by people like Francis and his commitment to programming for the poor.

My trip’s intent was to deepen LTBLI’s understanding of the successes and challenges of our 3-year partnership with Francis and CMC. To-date, LTBLI has donated 1,100 safe solar lights to vulnerable families in Malawi, impacting 7,025 people. Using a model of piggybacking onto existing programming, LTBLI keeps costs down while meeting the basic energy needs of vulnerable households. Therefore, through our innovative programming, LTBLI helps change-makers like Francis to amplify the impact of their projects.

Annual site visits ensure that LTBLI understands what’s happening with our valued local partners in the targeted communities. LTBLI identified Malawi as a prioritized country because 85% of the population lives in rural areas where only 1% have access to electricity.

Challenges, Resilience, and Solar Impact

My travels with Francis by boat, 4 x 4 truck, motorcycle (often with 3 of us piled onto one seat), bicycle, and foot helped deepen my appreciation for the challenges facing vulnerable off-grid families. “Resilience” encapsulates the attitude of Francis, his team and the families and villages we visited.  Furthermore, Francis and his team illuminated the impact of solar donations and distribution as well as the efficacy of advocacy for more renewables.

0 Comments

A Short Recap of a Long and Bright Journey

Earlier this month, I traveled with LTBLI Founding Board Member (and exemplary husband), Ben, to Uganda for site visits over the course of 9 action-packed days. Unable to travel since March 2020, due to the global pandemic and then an Ebola outbreak in 2022, LTBLI had...

Shine On Rwanda!

Guest Blog by John Keith and Leah Weinkle   Ten years ago a friend of ours here in Denver started a primary school in Rwanda. Hope Haven Rwanda has recently completed the addition of a secondary school and is the top-performing primary school in Rwanda based on...

Sustainable Energy for All

  A guest blog by Caroline Mwebaza of Solar Health Uganda. Sustainable Energy for All A few months ago, I attended the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. l traveled from Uganda as a Delegate on behalf of Let There Be Light International (LTBLI)...

My Summer Solar Internship

Hannah Schulman is this summer's Energy Poverty Intern at Let There Be Light International (LTBLI). She is a rising...

Brightening Lives in Amolatar, Uganda

Last month, Let There Be Light International (LTBLI) implemented one of its most comprehensive solar projects to-date. Working in cooperation with local stakeholders and another US-based nonprofit, LTBLI launched three (3) of its signature solar projects in the...

A Snapshot of our 2022 Solar Celebration

Click here to see the gallery as individual photos. Shine On! [gallery size="large"...

Reflecting on One Million Lives Impacted by Solar Lights

Eight years ago, Let There Be Light International (LTBLI) began solar programming in Uganda with its first official partner. 8 years later, LTBLI is marking a major milestone – One Million lives impacted by solar programming in 3 countries. You may wonder how we...

Solar Lights are Changing Lives in Salalira

Guest blog written by Olivia Owino, M&E and Training Consultant to LTBLI and Solar Health Uganda (based in Uganda).Let There Be Light International’s maternal and infant health project, Safe Births and Healthy Homes (SB+HH), has changed the lives of many mothers...

Lights4Literacy Shines During COVID-19

Guest blog written by Siriman Kiryowa, Solar Health Uganda Field Research Analyst.Lights4Literacy is an innovative solar project in Uganda. It is a collaborative educational program undertaken by Let There Be Light International (LTBLI), Kyosiga Community Christian...

Shine On: Campus Voices – Connor Flynn

Connor Flynn, an Environmental Studies student at The University of Washington, connected with Let There Be Light International while developing his e-commerce clothing brand, Transcendental Dreamer. In an interview with LTBLI Communications Consultant Rachel...