It has been 4 months since I left Vermont to Ghana after completing my 4 months Community Solutions Program (CSP) Fellowship with 350Vermont in December 2015. Considering it is the same length of time I spent in Burlington brings to heart memories etched on my mind. Not only did my time with 350VT shaped my experiences and activism, 4 months later, that relationship is shaping my vision.
Some months ago, when the foliage had put on their best possible color in the Green Mountain State, I shared a vision with friends who had grown to become my family. The vision was to eradicate kerosene lanterns in Ghana by replacing them with solar lamps. The motivation behind this was my attempt at seeing energy poverty in Ghana as a climate justice issue.
Indeed 350VT embraced the idea, not just because we were running climate justice workshops in schools with the Change Maker curriculum. Their motivation was beyond that– they perceived their support as an opportunity to make a change and to also build lasting relationships across continents to explore the common values in different cultures. This was a great inspiration.
According to a Lighting Africa Report of 2012, 72% of people in rural Ghana depend on kerosene as the main source of lighting. Kerosene lanterns are expensive to fuel, injurious to health and likely to cause household fires. At the other side of the page are solar lamps– gives 15x more illumination than kerosene lanterns, are cost effective and double the number of study hours available to school children. These staggering energy poverty statistics gave urgency to my vision and set me on a path to give a solution with support from friends in Vermont.
Earlier this year, I embarked on a journey to the Ga West Municipality of the Greater Accra Region of Ghana to visit off-grid communities and learn about the lighting needs of school going children. The visit broke my heart as I met the sheer number of children in villages like Hobor, Sosu and Opintin who were relying on kerosene lanterns to study at night. But it also put a smile on my face, out of the abundance of the hope in their beautiful eyes.
Today as I write this post we have been able to replace kerosene lanterns in the homes of 21 school children with solar lamps. What a big change! The benefits of these lamps are immense: primary school grades can jump from mere 50% to 100%, burn risks and carbon emissions are reduced to zero, income generating capacity increases dramatically, livelihood improves dramatically and off-grid families extend their day by more than 3 extra hours.
But above all these benefits is one thing that puts everything into perspective; the fruits that a relationship I shared within 4 months with friends in Vermont is bearing. To me, the second leg of this relationship has just started in Ghana and you can guess the many more fruits it will bear in the near future.