Thursday, September 16, 2010

September '10 Newsletter

Mission Accomplished!

On September 5, Thomas completed the installation of a solar system in the school in Chona, southern Zambia. Then there was a party!

Our plan from the beginning was to provide electricity to the Chona school, which had been recently refurbished by Matantala, a Zambian development agency focused on eradicating poverty through improvement in education, among other things. When Thomas arrived in Zambia on August 20, he found that Matantala and the village had decided to construct a new building consisting of 3 classrooms, staff room and a head master's office complete with a strong room (i.e. cement ceiling, floor and walls with no window). They wanted this new building to get the installation. There were two problems. The building was not completed - the walls were not even all the way up, and Thomas only had a few days to get the job done. Also, the building was not oriented to properly catch the sun's rays with the panels fastened to the roof. Had we come all this way only to have to leave an unfinished project?

After seeing that Thomas had really come, the village got busy and worked hard to get the building up. They got the ridge cap on the roof on the morning of September 5, which was Thomas' last day. But that left the issue of how to get the solar panels on so they would work. In consulting SunTech, the supplier in Lusaka, Thomas discovered that they had developed a rotating frame that eliminated the problem of orientation. Since southern Zambia is not prone to high winds, it would not be a problem if the panels were raised above the roof ridge rather than fastened on the roof slope. So with that, Thomas re-designed the system for the new building, laying out the material in preparation for the moment the building would be ready.

It all came together. Matantala contributed by providing Thomas with transportation and paying the electrician to wire the building. This is Matantala's first rural school with electricity, and we are proud and grateful to have them as a partner. On Sunday, September 5, just minutes after the switch being thrown to light the classrooms, the village celebrated. Between 400-500 people came. Television, radio and the press covered the event. All of Zambia learned that a few friends from Canada, with some generous supporters and a wonderful Zambian partner had created an historic moment - the electrification of a rural school far from the electrical grid.

Thomas came home tired and happy. His dream of doing something concrete for his people was beginning to come true. More requests from Zambia are arriving, as you might imagine. We want to finish the school, electrifying the other buildings and the teachers' homes, so that rural students can compete with kids from the city for places in higher education. Interest has also been expressed from other places in Africa. We are excited to see what our next steps will be.

The people of Chona have finished the school since Thomas left, plastering the walls, painting inside and out. The new school term has begun and children are using the new building.  Thomas' uncle, Mr. Mark Chona and his family donated a new computer and colour printer and they are working at installing an antenna so that there will be Internet service in the village via cellular signal. The twenty-first century is arriving in Chona!

For a sense of what it is like to live in southern Zambia and why we did the project, read Mark Chona's speech at the celebration ceremony. It is both informative and moving.

Thanks to all those who have encouraged us from the beginning and who have helped us to get this far. We could not have done this without you! To say thank you and to tell the dramatic story of the challenges of the installation, we would like to invite you to an information and celebration evening at Royal View Church, 218 Clarke Rd. London on Friday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m. We would be honoured if you joined us. If that time and place is inconvenient, we would be delighted to come to you and share the story. Just let us know so we can work out the details.

If you have  a question or comment Contact us.

We did not come to watch.
~Marilyn Crewe

Your GlobalLIght Projects Team
Thomas, Wayde, Peter, Marilyn & Doug
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exists to help the people in the developing world by applications of simple technology