A guest blog by the co-founders of Shine On Rwanda, an initiative of Let There Be Light International
By Leah Weinkle and John Keith.
Nearly 1 billion people in the world live with unreliable access or no access at all to electricity and about 600 million off-grid people are living in Africa. When the sun goes down life stops. People go to sleep in darkness, get up in darkness, and take care of loved ones in darkness. Many people’s only option is to light kerosene lamps, candles or maybe turn on a cheap flashlight. Kerosene and candles are dangerous and expensive, as are flashlights with batteries when there is no means of safe disposal. Besides being dangerous and polluting, the average rural family in Africa spends between 10% and 25% of their income on these nonrenewable energy sources. This means that some of the most vulnerable people in the world are proportionately spending more on energy than anyone else on the planet! Shine On Rwanda, an initiative of Let There Be Light International, is committed to changing that!
It’s hard for most of us to imagine what it’s like to live without electricity – being without light during the long, dangerous, monotonous and unproductive night hours. We don’t think much about our relationship to energy and light. We take light for granted. In Rwanda, which is located near the equator, darkness comes every day of the year at around 6:00PM. These long nights come with hardships – cooking is difficult and dangerous, babies and children are not able to be monitored closely, the disabled and the elderly cannot get around safely, school children cannot study, and for everyone, trips to the outhouse are difficult and often dangerous.
A simple solar light provides low-cost light, allowing families to save money, often for the first time. These savings are commonly spent on food, seeds, medical care, school and home-based micro businesses. With a solar light, cooking, childcare, and studying all become easier. Life becomes a bit easier.
Solar lights will not solve all the problems of people living in extreme poverty, and a single solar light won’t save the world, however solar lights are changing thousands of lives – one person, one household, one community at a time. We know this because Let There Be Light International (LTBLI) has donated 40,000 solar lights to vulnerable families. And just in the last year or so, Shine On Rwanda, an initiative of LTBLI, has donated almost 800 lights, positively impacting over 4,000 lives!
And because an important part of our Shine On Rwanda solar light distribution program includes detailed assessment and follow-up in the communities receiving the lights, we really know that the lights significantly improve the lives of individuals and households. Let’s all work together to Shine On!