Tag Archives: ARCC gap

Pulling the string to a new life

Installing the actual solar panels was a skill the ARCC Gap group learned quickly. We began by assessing each house, which inevitably gave us all a very harsh but needed wake-up call as to what living in the dark is like – we began to feel immense pride in the work we would be doing.

Each house we went to was somewhat similar: a window-less kitchen with no ventilation and charcoal fumes that would take anyone out – especially me, a small bedroom, and a very small living room. For each family, we needed to install upwards of 3 light bulbs for the various locations they needed light in. For me, wires, cables, and electricity in general is a foreign concept, however, Thiemo made it very simple to understand, and in no time it all began to flow like clock-work for me.

Franny installing solar panels on the roof for Napenda Solar Community

Franny installing solar panels on the roof for Napenda Solar Community

After assessing each house, we placed the solar panel in the perfect place on the roof, an essential part of using panels in the most effective way. I was the first person to get on the roof, and I will not lie, it was a very scary experience. The roof, made out of thin corrugated steel, felt as though it would cave with every one of my fearful steps. Luckily, it did not; nonetheless a heart-racing experience.

After the solar panel was installed, the rest of the day was spent wiring cables into all the various locations that needed light. This was at first the hardest part for me seeing as this was a new skill, however, Thiemo’s teaching made it very simple for the whole group, but also the families; making it easy for them to understand how their new system worked. The wires took us a while on the first day but after getting used to the way things worked, we became very quick, installing the whole solar power system in under two hours on the second day!

Once everything was finished and the whole system was ready to go, all our hearts were racing as the families gathered around the light bulb ready to pull the string – a string that would in turn change their lives for the better. Thankfully, and solely due to Thiemo’s teaching, 3 out of 3 of the families had light at the first pull, smiles consuming their faces as they saw, like we did, how helpful this small light would be for them.

Napenda Solar Community is one of the service projects the Gap year program with Adventures Cross Country is involved.

Napenda Solar Community is one of the service projects the Gap year program with Adventures Cross Country is involved.

It was an incredibly rewarding community project, and knowing how much our days of hard work would help will have a lasting effect on me. When I asked Nancy, mother of 4, how light would help her, “This is going to change things for me so much. I am internally grateful. My children can study and we can live happily with light. I am so happy.” As am I, Nancy.

Francesca Eremeeva is with the ARCC Africa group who spent 10 days with Napenda Solar Community in Kajiado, Kenya learning about solar power, building and installing systems and she worked tirelessly on promoting the project on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.

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Africa Expedition Support off-roading into making a real difference

Chief Mapengo comes to meet the Adventures Cross Country group at Napenda Solar Community HQ in Kajiado, Kenya

Chief Mapengo comes to meet the Adventures Cross Country group at Napenda Solar Community HQ in Kajiado, Kenya

Lee Erickson is one of the leaders of Adventures Cross Country Gap group currently in Kenya working with Napenda Solar Community.

Here is a blog entry from Lee

“The Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC) Africa Gap crew is currently 30 miles outside of Nairobi, in Kajiado County, Kenya, where we are working with the Napenda Solar Community assembling and installing solar power systems to the local communities to provide electricity and light in their homes for the first time!

I know you guys are probably thinking that that’s some pretty amazing stuff… and you are right! It has been one of the most rewarding service projects that I have ever been a part of, and is definitely a highlight for our group during our three month journey across East Africa.

Napenda Solar Community is a non-profit project that began in November 2013 in hope of improving the lives of many East African families by providing affordable, reliable and clean solar energy to their homes. Napenda is Swahili for “I love,” and in just two short years, Napenda Solar Community has installed solar power systems in 27 homes and have stolen the hearts of the communities that they have reached across East Africa thus far.

So who is behind Napenda Solar Community? Their names are Thiemo and Deborah. Thiemo grew up in Germany and is a master mechanic, car enthusiast and driver by trade. Deborah is originally from Australia and is a nurse, dog lover, and a crafty cook. They met in Africa while working with an overland company several years ago, and eventually started their own overland and guided Land Rover self-drive business called Africa Expedition Support (AES).

They started AES at a campsite near Nairobi with one overland truck and a couple Land Rover 4x4s. They quickly grew in popularity due to their work ethic, knowledge, and passion to create memorable and outstanding experiences for their customers. With currently four overland trucks and 12 Land Rover 4x4s in their fleet, they stay very busy running and organizing overland and self-drive guided trips for school groups and adventurous travelers that want to experience East Africa in a truly unique way. Coincidentally enough, our ARCC Africa Gap group is overlanding with AES for the majority of our journey!

As AES expanded, Debs and Thiemo moved further away from the capital city and built their dream home called The Castle in Kajiado. With no affordable way to acquire essential resources like electricity and water, Debs and Thiemo had to design their home in a way that they would be completely self-sustainable. By reading books and searching the internet, Thiemo taught himself how to make a proper solar power system and a wind turbine that powers all of their lights, washing machine, oven, stereo system, water heater, and many more amenities in their beautiful home. By making their dream home a reality, Debs and Thiemo have proven that solar energy is affordable, reliable, sustainable, and makes sense for any home where the sun shines.

It wasn’t long before a light bulb went off in their heads to design a smaller solar power system for the homes in their local community, which sparked the duo to launch the Napenda Solar Community project in order to make a positive impact for those families. ARCC has been an in-country partner with Debs and Thiemo for many years and we feel very fortunate to be able to volunteer on their Napenda Solar project for 10 days, and experience first-hand, how beneficial this project is to the many families it is directly impacting.

The reality here is that 50% of people living in Kenya do not have access to mains electricity in their homes. Most people use kerosene lanterns for lighting which is expensive and has adverse health effects. In Kenya, mains electricity costs $500 to get connected to the grid (plus monthly electricity bills) is simply inconceivable for the majority of the population that lives on less than $2 per day.

“The challenge was finding a good project that individuals can learn something from, is sustainable, accomplishes something big, and has a positive impact on people’s lives. We believe Napenda Solar Community does all of those things, and more” says Debs and Thiemo as we talk over a hot cup of tea. “This project provides poor rural households with efficient, clean and cost effective solar power as a positive step to eradicating poverty,” they state.

After installing three solar power systems in three nearby homes, the impact we made thanks to Napenda Solar Community could not be more evident for our group during our short time here. Each family has invested $50 of their money (which often times means selling a cow or goat) and with their new-found electricity, they understand how valuable this resource is to open opportunities to access information, education, and communication offering a tremendous platform for individual, community and nationwide development.

Debs and Thiemo’s goal for Napenda Solar Community is to install as many solar panel systems across East Africa as possible. “We believe it is our social responsibility to give back to our community to make people’s lives easier here,” Debs concludes. Napenda Solar Project largely relies on groups and travelers such as ARCC to fund the cost of the solar power systems and we couldn’t be more thankful to the two of them for allowing us to be a part of their inspiring and life-changing project.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.