In my last post I shared with you the incredible solar panel project we did for the community of Qelqanqa. Well……… that project changed something inside of me. I mean really changed. Although I had been living in Peru and working with people from the poorest of communities, it was the gratitude of those community members that really made me realize what a difference one person could make in the lives of others. The tears of joy that were shed that day as parents relayed the fact that their children’s lives would be different set off a burning fire in my heart. They would have more opportunity, because they now had light. They would be able to actually read and do homework after 5:30 at night when it gets dark. What a simple concept. So simple that most of us in the First World never even think about it.
The community members asked me – no, begged me – to help them get more panels. Could I teach them to make them? Well, the wheels got turning, and I started doing research. What they really wanted was light. In their houses. But to make an entire system for each house would be oh, so costly. Then I came across a solution that is being used in quantity in India, Africa and China. Personal Solar Lights. Brilliant! Long story short – I was able to secure these lights for distribution in Peru. That’s right – we can now bring these very cool – very well made – very AFFORDABLE – lights to the 21% of the population in Peru that have NO ELECTRICITY at all!
I came back to the States in early June. Three weeks later, I was on a plane back to my new home away from home – Cusco. I trekked to a few communities to see how the residents would react to these lights.
The response was overwhelming! Look at the joy on these faces! This lovely family invited us in. You can see here – that even in the bright light of day – their home is very dark inside. There are no windows for light.
This woman creates alpaca weavings to support her family. Here she is spinning yarn from the alpaca she has raised and sheared. Previously, she would have to stop work early in the day, as there is no good light to work by. My good friend, Washi, and I set up a S250 lantern for her. It not only gave her light to work by, but literally lit up her whole stone house!
Can you imagine that over 20% of the population of Peru has no electricity? This means that when it gets dark – at about 5:30pm – year round – people go to sleep. Or maybe they use dangerous candles and kerosene lanterns to light their pitch dark huts for an hour or two. Children often have respiratory problems because of these fumes. There are often fires in the straw roofs. As we bring solar lights to these families, children will be able do homework and study – giving them more opportunity to succeed. Parents will be able to work in their homes safely, and for longer. People will be able to hike back from their chakras (farming plots) with light. Women will be able to give birth at night with the safety of light. Life-changing? Not only they, but I think so.
I have now dedicated a large part of my life to getting this project off the ground. I will be living between both worlds until we really make a dent in providing opportunity to millions. Would you like to help? For as little as $14, you can buy a desk light for a child. Through the nonprofit organization my son Jacob started 10 years ago, we will be able to get lights to families in these mountain communities. 6.5 million people without light. Each one of us can make a difference in one person’s life. See our website and let us know how many you’d like to help. Tell your friends. Pass the word……………..
The next morning after I made this incredible trek to Testayoc, I sat in that little stone house while the Mami cooked me breakfast. Boiled potatoes, of course. I sat on a tiny little wooden stool on a dirt floor – as she cooked over a wood fire with no ventilation. Cute little puppies played at the door. Her day would consist of doing basic chores to survive. But right now, her goal was to fill the stomach of her son and us visitors – so that we would have energy to carry on the day. So, boiled potatoes it was.
As I sat on that humble stool, looking down into the dirt, and around me, at the meat hanging to dry, the few possessions her family owned spread on the rafters, I literally choked back the tears. Not from pity – not from sadness – but from gratitude. Yes. Gratitude. I was so grateful to be a part of this family’s life. To experience what they do on a daily basis. This is not some Disneyland rendition of a colorful family in the Andes. This is real life. How many people in the First World get to experience this? Only a handful, I am sure. But how fortunate am I- to be able to partake in a life that is so genuine and so humble – and shared by BILLIONS of people on this earth. No electricity. No running water. No lights. For a majority of the world, THIS IS LIFE. All I can do is hope to be able to give some of them more of an opportunity through lights. So, if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to lately, this is it. Thanks for your support.
August 6th, 2012 at 1:15 pm
It is so wonderful that you are not only sharing light with these families, but, throu your stories, with all of us.
August 6th, 2012 at 1:16 pm
Typo. Through! Tiny screen…xoxo
August 7th, 2012 at 4:04 pm
WOW! What a great project. I have heard about personal solar lights in other places like Haiti, reading this gives me a better perspective on how much of a global impact this simple technology can have. I will be sharing this with the students and staff of Conserve School.
August 7th, 2012 at 4:57 pm
Thanks so much for sharing this with your students. The global impact of this green technology is just so right on so many levels. There are over 1.6 BILLION people in this world with no electricity. This solution works so well in most places – without leaving a carbon footprint!
September 14th, 2012 at 2:04 pm
I am glad to learn about what you are doing to bring solar lights to more people in Peru. Like Stefan, I will share what you are doing with students and staff at a semester school- in my case, the Woolman Semester School, where students are studying about the inter-relationships between environmental, social justice, and global issues while they live in community, discovering and developing their strengths and passions. They leave Woolman ready to join with others who are making a difference in the world, as you are!