8 February 2013

Uganda: Vision's Slum Project Winner Donates Solar Lamps

After emerging the third runner-up in the New Vision slum dwellers project, Innocent Byaruhanga partnered with Village Energy, an NGO and KCB Bank to give the residents of Kifumbira, in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb solar lights.

This was a way of thanking them for working with him and supporting his effort to give street children a home.

About 270 lamps were distributed to students to help them study at night and be able to compete with the other students in schools and homes that have electricity.

Byaruhanga said many students in slums fail because they face a lot of challenges one of which is lack of light.

"I have seen many students lose their sight because of the smoke from kerosene lamps. Some have even lost their lives. I believe solar lamps will solve this problem," he says.

The lamps were given to children from impoverished homes that could not afford any kind of safe lighting.

Abu Musuuza, the director of Village Energy, said they started with reaching out to the vulnerable group, but will also cater for slum dwellers.

This is because they have discovered that almost all the people are poor, the reason many of them resort to illegal power connections, which is harmful to their lives.

In rural communities of Africa, more than 95% of homes have no access to electricity and solar energy has the power to transform such lives.

According to a United Nations report, one quarter of the world's population live without electricity. Those who cannot afford power at all spend a large part of their income on kerosene for lamps or go to town to charge their batteries several times a week.

Burning kerosene contributes to indoor air pollution, which is estimated to kill 1.6 million people each year. Kerosene lamps also lead to fires that lead to loss of property and death.

Solar energy saves money, allows children to study in the night and gives families access to information through radio, television and mobile phones.

The light from a solar-powered bulb is between 10 and 20 times brighter than that from a kerosene lamp. Village Energy has so far reached out to 1,700 households around the country.

According to Musuuza, their objective is to reach all villages and slums of Uganda. Jean Mugisha, the KCB marketing and communications manager, said they partnered with Byamugisha because they had seen the great work he was doing in Kifumbira slum.

Julia Sebowa, a Senior Five student living in Kifumbira slum, said after receiving the solar lamp, she will read hard so that she goes to university on government sponsorship.

"I used to sleep at 7:00pm because our house is always dark, but with this solar lamp, I will read for as long as I can," Sebowa said.

Singer Bobi Wine, who grew up in Kifumbira, advised the students to use the lamps to read and get good results.

"No one will sympathise with you because you come from the slum, so the only way you can compete with the rest of the students is by reading hard," he says.

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