Leading window and blind manufacturer Velux has recently launched an initiative to bring light and a better life to people in several African countries.
In Zambia, only 20 per cent of the population has access to electricity. When darkness falls, the remainder live without electric power, with their only light source being paraffin lamps, candles or bonfires. Even childbirth at night must often take place by the light of a mobile phone alone.
Velux has decided to address this issue by providing people across Zambia with handheld, solar-powered Natural Light lamps. Together with the social business Little Sun and the NGO Plan International they are collaborating to bring clean, reliable and affordable light to off-grid regions in Zambia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.
14,500 Natural Light lamps from the VELUX Group have now arrived in Africa and the first recipients can already look forward to a better quality of life.
Among them are young girls between 10 and 18 years of age who live in a safe house in the slum area Mntendere in the Zambian capital Lusaka. The lamps help them do their homework when they get back from school and feel safer at night, protecting them from the threat of violence or rape.
“Now I can read at night and do my homework. We used just to go to bed as we weren’t allowed candles in our house because of the fire risk – they were too dangerous with so many young children around,” says 17-year-old Sandy.
Lamps generate business
Apart from generating light in the hours of darkness, the Natural Light lamp can also help generate business for many people in Zambia. The NGO Plan International has already engaged and trained a group of 70 young people in this income generating project. The young entrepreneurs sell the lamps, earning them a small commission for every lamp they sell so that they can buy more new lamps – thus kick-starting their own businesses.
Childbirth by the light of a mobile phone
Bertha Musonda’s, nurse and midwife at local health clinic, four hours’ drive north of Lusaka, says her work has become much easier with the Natural Light lamp.
“When it comes to births in the evening or night, Natural Light makes all the difference. I used to work by the light of my mobile phone. I held it between my teeth so I had both hands free to help the child into the world. And that was quite difficult if you had to talk to the mother at the same time,” explains Bertha Musonda.
Distribution of lamps facilitated by Plan International
Plan International, which has played a crucial role in the distribution of the lamps, sees great advantages in the project.
“The solar-powered lamps will benefit entire communities where electricity is a scarce resource. In countries that have an unemployment rate of more than 60 per cent, this programme makes a big difference in the lives of the people involved. They are given a chance to support themselves,” says Gwen Wisti, Managing Director of Plan International Denmark.
Image Credit: Copy right: The VELUX Group
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