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Clean, Safe Light Changes Lives
Hendrix Students Deliver Solar Powered Lights to Peruvians Living without Electricity Scroll down to read stories from light recipients
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Help us send more lights to the women of Sebeta by donating a light today.
Stories from Light Recipients
Lucio Illamesa Lucio is a weaver in a small village in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He spends about 15 hours every day weaving. He actually built his loom with his own hands. He does all of his own thread dyeing using natural dyes made from local plants and minerals. His wife spins the thread and he weaves it into beautiful textile items.
Lucio and his family received a solar light from One Million Lights this March as part of a Global Ambassador Program distribution with Matt Youngblood, Katie Jones, and Harmony Hudson, students from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. To support his 7 kids, Lucio begins most days weaving before sunrise and finishes after the sun sets. The solar powered light he received will be used to help him work when the electricity goes out (which it often does), help his kids study in the evenings, and light his dark kitchen while his wife cooks.
He’s thrilled! Support other artisans like Lucio in a brighter future for their families and communities. Donate a light today at OneMillionLights.org.
Caseano IllamesaLucio’s brother, Caseano, is currently building a new house. His old house was too far from his village to connect to the electrical grid. His new house still doesn't have electricity but it is close enough that some day he might be able to afford to get it connected. Can you imagine relocating your home, just so that someday you MIGHT have the chance at electricity in your home!?
Caseano’s community is located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru near Cuzco in a biological reserve called The Potato Park. Matt Youngblood, Katie Jones, and Harmony Hudson of Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas distributed 100 solar lights from One Million Lights to Caseano’s community. Caseano’s solar light will really help his family in their economic situation, with their health issues, and with the education of his five daughters.
Economically speaking, solar lights are a huge asset for people living without adequate access to electricity because they provide ongoing illumination at no monthly cost. In Caseano’s village, kerosene and candles are an average of $18 a month. To install an electrical system would cost Caseano an initial $200, plus an additional $7 a month for the electricity. Everyone living in the Potato Park, including Caseano, is to some degree a subsistence farmer, though some spend more time as artisans than others. Caseano is almost exclusively a farmer, making what little money he does from selling his excess crops in the market.
Not only will his solar light make illuminating his home cheaper, it will also help provide a much cleaner source of light. His wife has had a reoccurring respiratory infection that has put her in the hospital several times in the last few years. They think it is because of her daily proximity to their kerosene lamps while she is cooking supper. Her eyes were often red from the smoke and she has a terrible cough. Various remedies had been tried, such as using various local herbs and even nailing a bird to their wall, but he understands that the smoke is the real issue.
Although all five of Caseano’s daughters are in school, he was very disconnected from their studies, because they had to go to a relative’s house to study every night. The solar powered light his family received will allow his girls to study at home as well as light the house with clean, safe light at no monthly cost.