Friday, June 26, 2015

“When the sun goes down in many villages across Tanzania, most activities cease. Shops close, business stops for the day, and children are forced to do their homework by the light of polluting and hazardous kerosene lamps or candles.” ― Scientific Development Journal

John’s solar energy project has sprouted wings and is taking off.  For as little as a down payment of $15.00 USD and then monthly payments of $5.00 for three years, a family (or two) can get a small solar panel (see picture at the right) that will power four (4) bright lights, a combination radio/MP3 player, a solar flashlight, and a cell-phone charger that can accommodate up to four phones at a time (or they can pay $200 for the whole thing up front).  The last thing is especially important because for villages with no other power, people with cell phones (almost everybody) has to travel to a town and pay about $4.00 per month just to charge a single phone—so whoever has this solar power set-up can have others pay for charging their cell phones and almost offset the entire cost of the solar kit.  John is programming each kit with a GPS and a SIM chip so they will know exactly where the solar kit is located and can shut it down if it is stolen or if the owner doesn’t make a payment—with just a text message from a cell phone here in Bunda.  It is an amazing improvement that will allow people to have music, listen to the news, and children will be doing their homework under bright lights that pose no hazard. There is a larger unit that sells for $600 or a down payment of $150 and $15 a month for three years.  This larger unit comes with more lights and can power a television set and a refrigerator in addition to the other items that come with it.  Some locals set up the television for soccer games and then charge people to watch them, thus offsetting the cost again.  Being able to keep food fresh in a refrigerator is another plus for health and safety.  These solar units will also deter thieves by lighting the outside all night long.  It only takes five hours for a full charge and as we are close to the equator, we get twelve hours of sunlight every day.  They even work on cloudy days, so the rainy season won’t slow them down.  This is a remarkable change in local culture for the better, and we couldn’t be prouder of John and his contribution to it.  He has been working with a solar supplier from the U.S., but the actual kits are made in China.  Without John’s programming skills, the GPS and the ability to turn off the units remotely with a cell phone message wouldn’t have worked.  That was what was needed and John supplied it.  Shaban will be the local vendor for Bunda and they will be sold all over the Mara region at first.  Over seventy people were waiting for the first ones and showed up three days early to get theirs.  Even if the national power grid is available, the cost of hooking up and monthly payments far exceed the cost of the solar units and the national power company is on and off on a regular basis, so the solar is much more reliable, and much cheaper.  The bulbs never need replacing, so this is a big deal indeed.  John has set up a unit on our house and has lights in his room and his bathroom that are off the grid.  Did I say we were proud of him?  Karen even cried when she saw his excitement and how well the things worked.  God continues to bless us and those we serve.  Who knew? 
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