The light at the end of the tunnel.

In a small town of darkness, a young 23-year-old man made it his mission to bring the community light.  Using the latest technology of solar-powered LED lanterns, Evans Wadongo has developed an invention that would soon illuminate the homes that have since done without any electricity.  Nairobi, Kenya has relied on kerosene and firewood to heat and light their homes.

Wadongo’s invention is doing more than lighting the way.  He believes that the lanterns will ultimately help in the community’s education as well as reduce poverty and hunger.  Wadongo is not a stranger to dark homes.  He himself grew up in a house that required him to complete his studies with the dim light of a kerosene lamp that later caused him problems with his vision.  Due to the lack of proper lighting, he was unable to compete with students from homes with electricity, causing him to fall behind in school.  It wasn’t until 2004 when Wadongo was studying at a Kenya university that he was playing around with LED Christmas lights.  Suddenly, a lightbulb (pun intended) went off in his head.  After stumbling across a small piece of solar panel, he took his design to an artisan who helped him create the most efficient LED lantern.  He entitled the small light MwangaBora — Swahili for “good light.”

While attending a non-profit organization gathering, Wadongo was able to convince Sustainable Development for All-Kenya to support his $20/lamp cause.  Living off one meal per day and no compensation, Wadongo has dedicated his life to lighting the way for others.  He estimates that he has spread at least 10,000 lights throughout this once nighttime town.  With money no longer wasted on kerosene and firewood, families can now afford food and necessities for their families.  Wadongo notes that his hard work is worth the impact he has made.  After all, you can see Wadongo’s work best in the darkest hour of the night. A full description of his mission is described in the link below:

http://sustainabledevelopmentforall.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=4&Itemid=10

Solar-powered energy is increasingly in popularity world-wide. Often times the ability to work at night is taken for granted.  To truly have students feel the impact, encourage a ‘day of darkness’.  Don’t limit it to your classroom, but have students all over the school volunteer to experience a day with no light.  Have them keep a journal of the experience.  How did it impact your daily routines?  What was the most challenging part?  Do you think no lighting would impact your school work? Have students share their findings and discuss the most surprising impact the day of darkness had.  This experience will aid in students’ ability to relate to the members of Nairobi.  Guide them to explore the importance of light.

Incorporate Wadongo’s mission into a science lesson to truly understand the impact of light. Using the necessary materials and following the direction on the link below, build a solar lamp to understand how to utilize the power of the sun efficiently.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-A-Portable-Solar-lantern/

Wadongo encourages financial and material support to help his cause.  After building your own solar power lamps, hold a fundraiser (a dinner of evening dance would be fitting..) that is lit solely by the LED lights.  Not only will it bring awareness to the cause, but bring insight into what we often take for granted.  Wadongo can be reached through Facebook for students with further questions regarding his mission to light up rural communities.

As Wadongo says himself, “I just feel like it’s right.” (Wadongo, 2010).

As an educator, what was the most difficult part of a day without the use of light?

How do you think it would impact your students’ learning? Do you have students who currently do not have electricity in their homes?  Will this change how you view their learning environments?

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9 responses to “The light at the end of the tunnel.

  1. Juliette, your blog is SO inspiring! I feel like students could easily find the value and making a difference after reading these stories. Did you share any of them with your kids? Did they have any kind of reaction? I also like that you offer up ways to incorporate the stories into content area classes. Great job!

  2. Hi Juliette,
    I really enjoyed looking through your website- as a secondary teacher I think that this would be a great way to actually have students research their own role models and heros and post to the blog. As a elementary teacher would you ever consider having students make posts like these on a less complex level?
    Thanks for sharing!
    Kailyn

    • I love the idea of having students research their own. I would certainly utilize it in an elementary classroom (with supervision, of course). I think the whole idea of a blog is getting reader input, no matter what at age! I think it would be realistic to create a post from the whole class and do the research together, find pictures together, view videos together, etc.. It’s a great way to have students contribute their own ideas and opinions on different texts without them even knowing it!

  3. Wow! Juliette your blog is great! I think this could be used as great tool to inspire kids in the classroom and show them how simple things that we take for granted (like light) can really make a difference to people in other countries!

  4. Juliette your blog is amazing. Students are always looking for people to look up to and inspire to be and this is a great way to do it! The path in life a student takes is usually reflective on who their role model is and this is a great way to get them on the right path

  5. Juliette – from the design of the blog to the content – truly inspiring. I love the concept and I feel it would be an asset to my secondary classroom. I need to add this to my blogroll on my classroom blog, as I want my students to see it. I hope you keep updating! Where did you get the idea?

    • Thank you! The idea came to me when we were celebrating Marin Luther King Jr. Day and not a single student knew who he was. I knew I had to open their eyes to the incredible people out there to spark their own learning (and actions). Ultimately, I’m hoping that it shows students that they are capable of so much if they only try.

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