Tag Archives: community service

Life without light – Napenda Solar Community

This blog entry was written by Sam Cary who is on the Adventures Cross Country Africa Gap year program.

Before we arrived at the locals’ houses we were told how poor their living conditions were, but nothing could have prepared us for the reality of their situations. On the first property we worked on were two toolshed-sized structures: one house and a kitchen. Living in these extremely small and poorly lit structures is a family of 9, named Nancy, Jane, Naomi, Gif, Faith, Abby, Tabi, Leah, and Rose, four of whom are small children.

Before the solar panels were installed, any and all housework, schoolwork, and cooking had to stop after sunset (in Kenya, that is around 6 PM). Without the solar powered electricity, the kids can’t even complete any school work because during the daytime hours, they have to help around the house, tend to animals, and get water from local wells for the families – these chores always take priority over school work. The first family we helped used Kerosene lamps, which are not only a very weak source of light, but are also extremely toxic and are a major cause of many lung issues within families who live in homes without electricity.

The kitchen is so poorly ventilated that the kerosene lamps make the inside look as though someone sprayed a thick layer of black spray paint over all the walls, cooking materials, and the beds. Yes, there are beds in the kitchen where the younger children sleep, every night. When I walked into this kitchen, my eyes immediately began burning and I couldn’t even take a full breath. These young kids spend hours upon hours in this kitchen, making food, sleeping, or simply spending time with their siblings. Many of these kids had coughs that were so severe it made the hazard of their living conditions on their health extremely clear. Unfortunately, the extremely low income these families make prevents the parents from getting any sort of medication for these children.

A young child sleeps in a smoke filled room due to the family using open fire for lighting.

A young child sleeps in a smoke filled room due to the family using open fire for lighting.

Providing clean solar powered electricity in their homes will remove the need for the kerosene lamps, which would in turn seriously reduce the lung issues that the people in this family have. Having light in the house and in the kitchen would also allow the kids to do their schoolwork during night hours, and would let the adults work on their professions and crafts — a major source of this families income. This experience has given me an unprecedented appreciation for growing up with electricity and the benefits it has on ones life, as well as opening my eyes to how clean and sustainable solar energy really is. Solar energy truly is the most practical method of creating electricity, with virtually no cost and absolutely no negative repercussions; solar is absolutely the way to power any house, anywhere.

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.

 

Changing lives through Solar Power

Sam Cary, a student from the USA on an Adventures Cross Country Gap trip to East Africa talks about his experience working with Napenda Solar Community in Kenya.

Before going into these homes and seeing the situations that these families were in, my anticipation and excitement for installing the panels was almost unbearable. Knowing that I would be able to have an immediate impact on these families’ lives was the reason why I came to Kenya. Rafting on the Nile, a safari in the Masai Mara were both unbelievable adventures, however being able to improve the lives of people who live in the middle of such poverty, is what makes experiences like this as rewarding as they are.

When we arrived at the first house, I was shocked to see the conditions these families lived in. A family of 9, all cramped in to what seemed like no more than a 30 square foot structure with two beds, seemed impossible. Compared to the living situations of these families, extreme poverty in the western world seems luxurious. This house was crawling with all sorts of insects. They had chickens, stray cats and dogs, all running in and out of their home, bringing in all sorts of bacteria into their house.

The kitchen was unlike anything i have ever seen, I am amazed that anyone could think it would be okay to be in a kitchen like this for any amount of time. The second i walked in, I was hit with a blast of dense smoke and kerosene lamp fumes. My eyes felt like they were on fire, and I went to take a breath but my body didn’t let me, knowing that it would fill my lungs with toxic smoke. I was shocked to see that pushed up against the walls of this kitchen, were two beds where the younger kids slept. Even with all of the smoke and fumes, there were two infants sitting on the beds next to their mother who was cooking us a meal of chapati and vegetables, using no more than the light from a kerosene lamp to light her dark and smoke filled kitchen.

Before Sam and the rest of the gang installed solar power to this home kerosene lanterns were the only option for this family.

Before Sam and the rest of the gang installed solar power to this home kerosene lanterns were the only option for this family.

Once the panel was installed, and the lights and battery were all connected, we flicked the switch and pulled the light cords, lighting up what was once a dark house with an even darker kitchen. What I saw was unbelievable. In the darkness of the kitchen without the light, I couldn’t see the amount of flies that were swarming the food, and the babies’ faces.

Shortly after the light was flicked on, all of the flies started to swarm the light, getting them all close enough to the makeshift door for them to be wafted out, away from the food and the kids.

This one solar panel really did create a remarkable difference in the quality of this family’s life. Solar electricity removes the need for kerosene lamps and wood fires for light, giving the kids a chance to work on schoolwork, and for the parents to continue their crafts and professions at night. In turn, this would improve the kids performance at school, and increase the amount of money these parents will make, which will allow them to provide even more for their family.

Sam testing his handy work after installing a solar power system to a poor rural home in Kenya

Sam testing his handy work after installing a solar power system to a poor rural home in Kenya

Napenda Solar Community brings solar power to poor rural families in East Africa. An initiative that is supported by the local community, visiting tour and student groups and Africa Expedition Support.