70 children – 12 Big Macs

It was much happiness and joy when we finished and opened the solar power station at Bishop Judith Craig`s Children’s Village outside the capital city Monrovia, Liberia. Children and staff were jubilant!

70 children, some who were made orphans during the Ebola epidemic that plagued the country in 2014, live in the village together with the staff. On the same campus is also a school with more than 600 children. As of last Friday (Oct . 26) the people at the village and the school can enjoy electricity as it was switched on.

Below are some pictures taken by our engineer Piotr Kwasowski, who was responsible for the installation. The pictures are from the village and the opening ceremony. The ribbon was cut jointly by the bishop of the United Methodist Church in Liberia, Bishop Quire and a former resident at the village, Mason, who was one of the first children at the opening of the village some 20 years ago and their first university graduate.  The two holding the ribbon is Debbie and Aron who will graduate from the school next spring, leaving the village to continue their university education. Both want to study medicine to become medical doctors “so we can help  the people and our country”.

Back to the 70 children and the 12 Big Macs! The total cost to keep a child at the village (food, lodging, education, etc.)  adds up to 1 USD  per day while  the price of a Big Mac in Norway is almost 6 USD (5.91 USD to be correct). Comparing the two numbers; 12 Big Macs pays for 70 children for one day. The idea of comparing the children and the Big Macs is not to give a feeling of guilt or keeping anyone away from enjoying their Big Mac, rather to remind ourselves and put the Big Macs into a different perspective from what we are used to. Or in a historical perspective, think of the billions of Big Macs that has been bought and enjoyed since the start of MacDonald’s in 1948 in its more than 36.900 restaurants with more than 1.5 million employees in over 100 countries around the world. We don`t even want to start calculating; only one days consumption of Big Macs would be mind-boggling.  It may be a crazy calculation and comparison, but sometimes it is good to be a little crazy in our thinking. Outside the box! And besides, the divide between failure and success is all too often shockingly slim; in this case, just a few hamburgers.

Finally, this whole project was sponsored and paid for by the United Methodist Church, Board of Global Ministries in Norway. We were just grateful being selected to do the job based upon our experiences in Africa.

SWITCHING ON LIGHTS IN KOTTO 1

In previous articles I reported on the work going on in the village of Kotto 1 and switching on the lights, promising a video from the glorious event. Here it is for you to enjoy and share!

DONE!

I am happy to share a few pictures from the “Grand Opening” of Kotto 1.

We have to admit that Kotto 1 was a tough one! The grid covers more than 3 square kilometers brining electricity and cable TV to some 3 500 people.  As far as we know it is, if not the largest, certainly one of the largest off-grid village solar power systems in the world and for sure, in the rain forest. It was a real challenge. We worked diligently and at the absolute fringes of our knowledge. But we succeeded! It`s done!

At the “Grand Opening”, the chief of Kotto 1 said, “today we live our forefathers dreams. What they dreamt about and hoped for generations, but never got to see, we experience. Now we can live as other people in the world! Darkness is gone. Light is here and with it a brighter and better future!”

A team from HiTV was with us for a couple of days when switching on the electricity. As soon as the video is ready we will post!

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GETTING READY

Enclosed are the latest pictures from Kotho 1, taken today.

The pictures show the solar park and the batteries installed. We will start charging the batteries next week getting ready for September 8. Do we need to tell that the whole village is filled with excitement and expectations? 8 of September cannot come soon enough! Generations of waiting are over. Light is here. Hopes and dream coming through!

A big applause and salute to Mr. Mike Fohba, Managing Director of SunErgy Cameroon and his team! They have been working hard and diligently under extreme condition, this being the rainy season.

Guys, we salute you! You are real heroes!

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VIDEO FROM KOTHO 1

September 8 will be a milestone day in the history of Kotho 1; they will have access to electricity, Cable TV and Internet.

Mr. Mike, Managing Director of SunErgy Cameroon and his 30 member team are working hard and diligently to make a brighter and more prosperous future come through for the people of Kotho 1.

On our visit to Kotho 1 a couple of weeks ago, we were accompanied by a team from HiTV in Buea who made the following report for you to enjoy.

Please spread the good news. Let the world know!

GETTING CLOSER

On the 8 of September we will switch on electricity in Kotho 1 – the third village in the project.

Work is going full speed ahead with more than twenty people working in the village wiring homes, constructing the solar park and building the grid for electricity, cable TV and Internet.

The excitement and expectation is to be felt as soon as you arrive at the village; the dawn of a new day!

Enclosed are four pictures from Dr. Skjorshammers visit last week, showing young electrician going to wire a home, a home just being wired, pulling a 2000 meter cable for the grid from the solar power station to the road by hand and pulling 4000 meter cable constructing the grid using a car. Hard manual work! But then, we are deep into the rainforest! Not very sophisticated, but it works! The rainy season does not make it any easier. Soon September 8 is here and more than 100 years of darkness turns to light! More than 3 000 people will experience pure joy! Waiting is over!

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”WE WANT WHAT YOU HAVE IN EUROPE”

stressed a council member in one of the ”SunErgy villages” at my visit to the village last week. ”We are eagerly waiting for you to bring us more electrical household equipment. Now we have television and radio. Are able to charge our mobile phones. Please bring us the rest. We want what you have in Europe!”

My take from this is that as soon as people get access to electricity they also get a craving for all the amenities going along with electricity and which you and I take for granted, such as hot water boilers, hair dryers, cooking plates, refrigerators, etc. Everything, which improves life and make it easier; like us they want the good life! There is no difference.

Believe it or not, by the end of this year, we will have brought and installed an estimated 8 000 light bulbs, more than 1000 television sets and radios, hundreds of hot water boilers, hair dryers, shaving machines. More than hundred refrigerators, freezers and washing machines in addition to streetlights, computer rooms in schools, etc. The numbers are awesome with more (much more) to come as the project moves forward.

The council member did not ask for freebees. He did not beg. On the contrary, people pay for what they use or get, whether electricity, cable TV, Internet or any electrical household appliances. They buy!

People are willing to pay as we make it available. And we will!