Tag Archives: solar power

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.

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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.

Go Green, Go Solar ……. Napenda Solar Community

For the past few months our focus has not always been on our overland safaris and guided self drive expeditions but on Napenda Solar Community.

What is that I hear you ask?  For those who have been on a safari or expedition with Africa Expedition Support and have met Thiemo or I probably recall at least one conversation about solar power with us.  Yes, solar power, this is not a misprint.  This is a topic we are pretty passionate about, we believe in it and proved that it works time and time again.  After all we could not run our workshop or office without solar power.  You see we are based only 1 hour from Nairobi, Kenya yet we don’t have any mains power – so for us to run our business we rely on the sun – solar power.

In addition to our guided self drive expeditions we also run a number of, what are called, “service trips” for school, university and teen groups.  These are tailored trips with all the usual Africa bells and whistles (game parks, beaches etc) with service projects – projects where students have the opportunity to give something back to less fortunate communities while learning about their culture and experiencing their lives.  It is not uncommon for families and couples to also want to participate in a community service project.

Our area is pretty underdeveloped in every way, there are very few schools, dirt roads that are lucky to see a grader once a year, no electricity, no clean water and the list goes on.  Hence Napenda Solar Community is a way to bring solar power to our local community by involving students and tour groups in solar power workshops that result in solar power systems being installed by the students and tour groups in poor rural homes, schools and clinics.

teens hard at work building a solar power system

teens hard at work building a solar power system

A clear win win for all.  Let’s face it, with the depleting world resources, there is a strong focus on clean renewable energies.  Throughout the USA, Australia, UK and Europe there is a push to go green – the recent People’s Climate March was testimony to this.  In Africa there is no choice, with very limited infrastructure and high cost of mains power the most economical way to go is solar power.  Although not expensive the costs of setting up solar power even in a small home are  prohibitive especially for those living on less than USD$2 per day.

Napenda Solar Community heavily subsidise these costs enabling communities to get connected to power.  A way for tourists and student groups to experience and learn from a local Masai community, go back home with greater understanding and appreciation of renewable energies; and valuable skills to set up their own solar power system if they choose to.

Who would have thought you could come to Kenya to learn amazing new skills?

For more information on our solar power workshops check out

http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/napenda/solar-power-workshops.html

If you would like to add a solar power workshop to your safari or expedition email me, Debs, at info@africaexpeditionsupport.com or Anne at solar@africaexpeditionsupport.com

Don’t forget to like us on http://www.facebook.com/napendasolarcommunity (tell your friends to like us also!) The more who know about Napenda Solar Community the more poor rural communities in Kenya will benefit!