Life Here Stops After Dark…But It Doesn’t Have To
Over the years, I have grown accustomed to living and working in areas where electricity is not always accessible. As a result, I now carry a headlamp and external phone charger with me everywhere I go. However, no matter how used to living without electricity I become, every time I travel back to the U.S. I slip into a mindset of taking electricity for granted; never worrying about my computer or phone running out of charge, being stressed about getting ready for work in the dark, or not being able to use my electric stove. It’s only when a severe summer storm rolls through that I think twice about making sure there is a flashlight and batteries in the house.
Light in particular is something I rarely think about. No matter how many times I’ve had to putter around in the dark trying to find my way around a random hotel room or guesthouse, I’ve always thought to myself, “Eh, it’s just a few nights; no biggie.” However, for millions of people around the world, a lack of access to electricity and light is an everyday reality. Imagine being in total darkness after 6pm: not being able to watch TV or read a book; unable to catch up on some evening work; not being able to see yourself in the mirror as you wash up at the end of the day; unable to see your kids’ faces as you tuck them into bed; or not being able to see what you’re making for breakfast early in the morning. This is the reality for the Little Ripples teachers and Mama Cuisiners (cooks) we spent the last two weeks with.
When asking these women about their experience, they related similar stories of struggling both at home and at work without light. “I can’t do any lesson planning at home in the evenings,” one teacher said. “I’m unable to see how well the food is cooked early in the mornings,” one of the Mama Cuisiners shared. “I must do my morning prayers in darkness,” another woman related. “I’m afraid to walk to the latrine at night,” another teacher mentioned. “When it rains, we close our windows, our classrooms become dark, and it’s hard for the children to see,” one teacher shared.
“Life stops after dark here” was a comment mentioned by a training participant that all women resoundingly agreed with, causing a bubble of conversation and sharing of frustration. When asked what they have been doing to deal with the issue of darkness, many of the women mentioned using kerosene lamps, which put households at risk of fires and children at risk of burns; using wood-burning fires that result in smoke inhalation and other obvious dangers; using solar lamps that are expensive (about $30 USD per lamp) and don’t last long; or using flashlights, which few families have money to regularly purchase batteries for.
iACT recognizes that light is unbelievably important not only for the work of these women professionally (e.g., planning their lessons, preparing school meals, walking to and from school, or for use in their classrooms), but also in their personal lives. However, only 27% of the women who participated in the Little Ripples training reported having some, but not consistent, access to electricity and light at home (73% have no access at all), while none of the early learning spaces they work in have any access to electricity or light. As such, iACT is extremely excited and grateful to be partnering with MPOWERD, a company with the mission of providing clean, sustainable, and affordable light that people can use in any situation, from recreational camping to emergency situations. With the aim of empowering the three billion people around the world who live without reliable access to electricity, MPOWERD developed the Luci® light, which is a clean and safe product – pretty much the opposite of the toxic kerosene lamps and fires so many depend on – because life doesn’t stop after the sun goes down. This product is different from the existing solar lamps currently found in Cameroon, as they are extremely easy to travel with, last a lot longer, and are much more affordable.
MPOWERD has very generously donated enough Luci® lights to iACT so that every woman who participated in the Little Ripples training in Cameroon would receive one. When we revealed this information to the women in the training, pandemonium ensued. The women were so happy and excited, cheering and clapping with expressions of disbelief and gratitude on their faces. “I will be able help my children with their homework at night!” one teacher said. “I’ll be able to prepare the school meals much better now!” one of the Mama Cuisiners exclaimed. “I’ll be able to use it in my lessons for games and activities!” an excited teacher shared. “I will be able to see and enjoy my early cup of coffee in the mornings,” another woman said, which I related to wholeheartedly.
These women wanted iACT, MPOWERD, and their supporters to know how unbelievably grateful they are and what a big difference having more light in their lives will make. We look forward to traveling back to Cameroon in a few months to document the impact that these lights will have on the Little Ripples teachers and Mama Cuisiners, as well as the children they teach, and catch up with these bright and illuminating women.
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