Story from the Field: Sebeta Nunnery in rural Ethiopia

Solar lights have replaced using candles at this ancient community center

Barrett Raftery, One Million Lights program manager, says that working with the nuns of Sebeta in Addis Ababa is really a delight. They are hardworking women who are caring for and educating orphaned children in their community, all with grace and joy. He distributed 12 solar lights within this community in January and hopes to bring many more lights on his trip in June. Help us out by donating a light today!

Here’s Barrett’s story about that first distribution of (with your help!) many to come:

Upon introduction to the head nun, I realized how accurate my Ethiopian guide had been in describing the need for our solar lights. After I explained the function and use of the lights, a large smile spread across the face of this glowing woman. She explained to me that in the intense heat of the day watering the crops was impossible. All watering was done at night in order to conserve the limited water resources. She continued to describe how, currently, candles are primarily used to guide the nuns around the fields at night, so they can see as they go about the nightly work of watering their parched food crops. She mentioned how they had previously tried using flashlights, but the costs of replacing batteries on a weekly basis was simply too much. Seeing the bright light shine from the solar lantern, she realized that this was the solution to her situation. In true nun style, she thanked God for the good fortune of having encountered One Million Lights.

The 12 lights that I left with the nuns are far less than the total need, but a good start. These lights will be split amongst the various branches of the nunnery to alleviate lighting costs. She gave me a beautiful blend of scarves made by her nuns to take back to One Million Lights, as a sign of her support and gratitude.

Sebeta has been in operation for over 100 years and supports a community of almost 300 women. It houses 50 nuns that live and work within the nunnery and the more than 200 orphaned girls who attend a school on site. The nunnery produces most of it own food and runs a small textiles operation to provide income. Sebeta is also the leader of a group a nunneries, which have a group population of around 1,000 people.

The Sebeta Nunnery, located about 20 km outside of Addis Ababa, was introduced to One Million Lights by our Ethiopian distribution partner, African Village Financial Services, headed by the dynamic and amazing, Kibre Dawit. Kibre’s organization is a microfinance bank that serves rural clients including the Sebeta nuns. Kibre has worked for years with the nunnery to aid in financing large purchases such as farm equipment and orphanage items.

Help us send more lights to the women of Sebeta by donating a light today.


One Million Lights and Addis Light are teaming up to send solar lights to those without adequate access to electricity in Ethiopia. Will you join us?

You can get involved by

Purchasing a light for $25 to give to a friend or family member in Ethiopia
Donating a light to children in need like the three orphans pictured above
• Sharing this opportunity with your friends.
• Or learn more here.


World of Color d.b.a. One Million Lights is a 501(c)3 approved, tax-exempt public charity.
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