By: Emily Oliver and Ainsley Gialamas’ August 2015
Our journey began in August of 2014 while we were making decisions about our final Senior Project at Hawken School in Cleveland, Ohio. Emily said: “ I want it to mean something, to help someone, I want it to be memorable, I want to be part of a culture where the primary language is Spanish.” When looking for a project we came across the Energizer website which then linked to the One Million Lights organization. “We found it! We are going to partner with One Million Lights, raise money for solar lights and deliver it to communities in Costa Rica with no or limited electricity,” said Ainsley. We researched where we were going to go and found GlobeAware an organization that creates volunteer vacations. We put together our senior project and it included fundraising for One Million Lights to bring solar lights to communities that needed lighting and worked with Globe Aware to create a volunteer experience.
First was the fundraising challenge: We created a high school dodge ball tournament that had excellent participation across the 9-12th grade classes. In the end we had a winning team and they received special shirts designed for the winners. Next we worked with a charter school in Cleveland, Ohio where we educated the 5th grade classes on the importance of solar lights. The fifth graders jumped on board and created an awesome bake sale for raising money for the kids’ solar light distribution in Costa Rica. We also applied for funding through the Geller Family fund and One Million Lights received an additional $800 for the use of lights. We raised over $1300 dollars for the overall project.
Costa Rica was amazing. We arrived in the town of El Sur with approximately 57 people. Our projects included cleaning the outside of the school, creating over 150 planters for the school as an eco-project, so the kids can plant seeds. The school should now receive additional government funding for an eco-project. Then we helped on a road project to make the road more passable.
We had the opportunity to talk with the youth in the school about solar lights and we distributed lights to the young people who had one classroom for all kids in Kindergarten through 8th grade. We also went to the homes of the villagers and provided lights to each of the homes. While they do have limited electricity there are times when there are storms or the electricity can go out for days.
We feel that the solar lights will also be used on the paths to help light the way as the families go from on house to another or to the church or school. It gets dark very early and the paths are narrow and having path lights is very helpful.
Providing the lights to the school children and families was amazing and we feel that this project met our criteria to do something meaningful and help make lives better. We also had the experience of a lifetime that will never be duplicated. We created a project as our last senior project that had meaning and was incredibly fun.
We are very grateful for the help of all of the people that helped make this project a reality. Mr Breisch who took this project on as an independent study. Pam Oliver who was the adult on the trip who was ready for any new adventure. Louise Robison the school teacher with the Cleveland school helping to work with the fifth graders to see the value and coordinate the fundraiser. To all of our friends who participated in the dodge ball tournament and the teachers who donated their time to be the referees and then play in the final game. Thank you to the Geller Family fund for the sponsorship of lights that will find their way to a very important family or child’s life. To One Million Lights and Globe Aware and the staff that helped us create a project of a lifetime. We hope that we will work together in the future to find another project that has meaning to others.
We are keeping in touch with the village to continue to ensure they have what they need and if we can have a positive impact in the lives of the families and kids we would like to be involved to continue to be involved with the friends we met while we were in their village. We do not say goodbye we say “See you later”.