Matt’s Story – Peru

Clean, Safe Light Changes Lives

Matt Youngblood and Harmony Hudson rest on their trek through the Andes Mountains

Hendrix Students Deliver Solar Powered Lights to Peruvians Living without Electricity

Matt Youngblood can be pretty skeptical about charitable donations. He wonders if the money will go to the right people or be used in the right way. One thing he really appreciated about participating in the One Million Lights Global Ambassador Program was that all of his fears were dispelled through the hands-on and deeply personal experience of doing the service work himself.

Youngblood, Harmony Hudson, and Katie Jones, all 2010 Hendrix College graduates participating in a service learning program supported by the Hendrix Odyssey Project, went to a collection of small villages near Cuzco, Peru called Parque De Las Papas to deliver 100 solar powered lights. These lights were provided by One Million Lights, a CA based nonprofit whose mission is to improve the daily lives of children and adults in rural parts of the world by providing clean, safe light. When families receive a solar light it replaces their kerosene lamp, making their home cleaner and safer. These lights make study and work easier, eliminate carbon emissions, and enable income generation and savings.

Women in Peru excitedly open their new solar lights provided by a team of 3 students through our Global Ambassador program.

Youngblood said, “I was going to Peru myself and distributing a life changing tool, solar lights. I knew the people wanted them because they were willing to pay $5 for each light, which for many might be several days wage. I knew they were effective because we interviewed people who had been using them for the past year – they were ravenous for more.”

One Million Lights’ Global Ambassador Program aids students like Youngblood in fundraising and distribution activities, giving them a hands-on experience in the sustainable development of poor, rural regions of the world. The Global Ambassador Program connected them to a cultural and environmental organization in Peru called ANDES, a Spanish acronym meaning Association for the Environment and Sustainable Development, who in turn introduced them to the people in Parque De Las Papas, who live without adequate access to electricity in a very remote region of the Andes Mountains of Peru.

The park, which literally means “Park of the Potatoes” is inhabited by a community of subsistence farmers whose existence depends on potatoes. All of their religious and cultural ceremonies involve potatoes and every meal involves potatoes in some form. The students spent five days in the park backpacking to 5 different villages in order to distribute their lights.

Katie Jones passes out solar lights to Potato Park villagers dressed in their finest.

Youngblood feels like they “truly experienced darkness. I grew up camping and backpacking a lot, and my family would always wear those headlamps. There was something I loved about having everywhere I looked illuminated. Well, I forgot my headlamp when I was packing to go to Peru. This ended up being a good thing in that it helped me empathize with the people we were helping. As soon as the sun set, Katie, Harmony and I found it hard to accomplish anything. We were going to bed at 8 or 9 at night, not so much because we needed that much sleep, but just because the darkness sapped our energy, and made it difficult to do anything like read, or write. Our hosts would sometimes provide us lanterns or in some places a single electric bulb would be in our rooms, but the darkness outside would instantly swallow us if we left.

Families testing out their new lights

“We were truly gifted to be able to experience this culture in such a pure form. The people wanted to show us their culture as a form of thanks. We were able to see amazing sights, see the change that these lights can bring to a family, and really feel and understand the importance of light.”