Grid Earth and WakaWaka Share Solar Lamps to Transform Lives
“I have nothing to give you, but I want you to know how precious this gift is that you gave me. Last night, we sat down and I read my children a story for the first time. I work from sun up to sun down.”
This is just one of the positive comments coming from one of the many men whose lives have been transformed thanks to new high-performance lamp technology, courtesy of Grid Earth. This man had walked for miles through the jungle in the morning after receiving his new solar light. He walked with a bunch of bananas in order to thank the John and Audrey Cochran for their generosity.
The Grid Earth organization is a non-profit founded by the Cochrans. The aim of the organization is to provide solar-powered lamps to those who live in rural communities that are living with energy poverty. To dates, lights have been distributed not only in Central America, but also in Haiti, Africa, India, Panama and elsewhere.
Entire Villages Receive Solar Lights from Grid Earth
Thanks to the non-profit nature of Grid Earth, and generous donations, entire villages across the Americas are receiving new solar lamps. Each household in these villages is receiving one lamp each to ensure that everyone benefits from the technology. The idea is that if an even distribution of lamps can be provided, then everyone can benefit regardless of whether they can afford one.
“The first solar light is the problem,” John says. “We don’t think it makes it any more precious or valuable to them to have to invest in the lights on their own.”
At the start of every distribution project, the Cochrans send out notifications to their chosen village before they provide them with these life changing lamps. Information is provided as to the meeting place and time so that everyone has the chance to attend and benefit from the free lamps. When the day of distribution comes around, the whole village gathers in a huge celebration.
When the day finally arrives, the Grid Earth volunteers give brief speeches to explain the importance of these lamps including instructions on how to charge them and maintain them. Villagers are made to understand the solar light donation as an opportunity for them, and not just a free hand out. Ideas are given for the use of the lights - to generate income, improve study hours for students and ensure that everyone stays safe after dark. The idea is to encourage the community to share these lights to benefit everyone there.
Solar Lamps Changing So Many Lives
Ultimately, anyone who has received a solar lamp from Grid Earth understands how important a possession it is. John recently commented: “The first solar light is the problem. We don’t think it makes it any more precious or valuable to them to have to invest in the lights on their own.”
The fact that these lights are so highly valued is evidenced by the care people take to maintain them. Even after visiting the villages years later, the Cochrans have found that the lights were still in fantastic condition and benefitting the community. Given the harsh conditions these people live in, this is no small miracle. The fact that devices like the WakaWaka Solar Lamp are built durably helps, as does the training the villagers receive in caring for their lights.
One of the most recent distributions of WakaWaka lamps occurred in Texas, in a village called El Progresso where they are transforming the list of local residents. Deyanira and Maria are two people who have benefitted. Deyanira’s mother was, at the time, facing the possibility of having to take Deyanira out of the schooling system due to the high fees.
But that all changed thanks to the introduction of solar light in the family. Instead of spending money on kerosene every month, Deyanira’s mother can now put those funds toward her tuition. So many possibilities were opened up for Deyanira, and today, she’s doing very well in her school and is planning to go on to university to study medicine.
Maria benefited as well. She was regularly walking through the jungle at night to do homework near the quarry where a light was kept on for the duration of the night. But now, Maria can safely study at home thanks to the solar light, as can every other student in the village.
The benefits of these lights have been seen in improved educational results, as well as in terms of safety. Absenteeism in schools in the village dropped significantly, and the health benefits have been substantial as well.
The health of villages has vastly improved as well. Villages that have received these great new lights are no longer suffering the negative health consequences of breathing in kerosene fumes or being exposed to dangerous open flames. Previously, burn injuries were common and child mortality was high due to kerosene fires and problems relating to respiratory disease. But these have now all but been eliminated for El Progresso.
Grid Earth Builds Relationships with Countries to Coordinate Smooth Distributions
The whole process has not been easy. In fact, importing and distributing the lamps has been particularly difficult. As a result, the Cochrans have been working tirelessly with government organizations and different charities on the ground from the very start to create a seamless process.
After they completed the first distribution of the lamps, government officials contacted them expressing their gratitude, and asking them to continue with other villages within Belize. With the government so impressed by the lamps, the organization was aided in its efforts to import thousands more of the lamps.
Through this building of relationships between themselves and government groups, the volunteers of Grid Earth have been able to import the lamps freely without any duties or other charges. This has helped the group immensely, allowing them to continue providing the lamps without any border hassles or import duties.
Grid Earth recently joined forces with WakaWaka in order to gain sponsorship from the 1% Club, which provided a large 5,000 Euro gift for WakaWaka solar lamps. As a result, the distribution of the lamps can now extend much further than Grid Earth has been capable of previously.
Ultimately, it’s not just the villagers who receive the benefits. Both John and Audrey are benefitting from the high levels of satisfaction they get for doing such great work. As they recently commented, “This makes a difference. This is what we should be doing.”