By: Josh Krasignor, NC State Student February 2015
Over Winter break several students from North Carolina States’ Students for Solar club, traveled to a coffee plantation called Selva Negra in Nicaragua. As global ambassador’s for One Million Lights, we distributed 100 individual solar lanterns and installed 3 room systems.
I did not understand what dark was until the first night at the hostel. With no street lights or light pollution from any neighboring cities, I could not see my hand when I turned out the lights. Throughout my life when I woke up to use the bathroom or get a glass of water I was able to at least see where I was going. This first realization really gave me an understanding of the impact that the lights were going to have on this community.
On the first day in Nicaragua we were happily surprised that even with the lack of funding and resources all of the schools in the area had electricity. Our original plan what to set up the room systems at the school. With the help of Mausi Kuhl the owner of Selva Negra Coffee Estate, we were able to determine which families would get the systems and who would get the lanterns. We spent a lot of our time spent going from house to house distributing the lights throughout two villages.
The third day was spent on a cattle farm owned by Mausi as well. There we met the lead farmer. He lived in a house with 5 members of his family including his two children. Before we came they did not have any access to lighting. This meant that when the children had to use the outdoor bathroom at night there was not any source of light to guide their way, making it a daunting task. Homework and studying outside of the classroom during the night was not a possibility. With the D20 system, we provided the two permanent light bulbs, a lantern, and a USB charger, all powered by a reliable battery based solar charging system. One thing that astonished us while we were handing out lanterns to the other 35 families that lived within the village was how community driven it was. Mausi knew all of the neighbors by name and knew which houses really needed the help. I believe this was the biggest impact we made during our trip.
This experience opened our eyes to many realities. One being that this world is full of beautiful, loving people who could really use our help. The appreciation we received when delivering the lanterns, house by house was unprecedented to us. With these lights, the children and adults alike can safely use their outdoor bathrooms, or get some work done earlier in the morning, and even be able to read and write after the sun goes down in a safe and reliable manner.