Friday, April 8, 2011

CNN HERO: EVANS WADONGO

Every year, CNN recognizes people who have done something to change other peoples’ lives and awards them as CNN heroes.
In 2010, Kenya was not left behind, since a 23-year old Kenyan guy was among the top 10 CNN Heroes recognized and awarded on 30th March, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Wadongo's theme photo at the CNN Hero Awards
Evans Wadongo is the Kenyan CNN hero who has taken a deep look into the darkness in Kenya and come up with a cheap way to bring light to the country and help alleviate poverty as well as save the dreams of young Kenyan School kids which are being shattered by lack of light as well as irritating smoke.



Below is a tribute video for the CNN hero Evans Wadongo:
video

Let me echo to you a little sad story of what happens when darkness sets in across Kenya, as told by one of the MCs in the CNN Heroes 2010 Award ceremony. I don't know about you but it certainly happened to me, so I am a witness to the true story:
"As darkness sets in, school children gather around kerosene lamps, others around the fireplace to do their homework, while some more others have no privilege at all and are forced by circumstances to ignore their homework. There are others who go to school at night because they have been working all day long.
Whichever the condition, it does not get any better. Smoke burns their eyes and learning comes to its abrupt end when the fuel burns out. This also marks the end of their beautiful dreams in life since most of them never get the chance to continue studies, given the high and ever-shooting price of fuel at the expense of their school fees."
However, if we had a couple of minds in Kenya thinking seriously about the situation, we could find a way to rescue these locked up and shattered dreams.
The first young mind in Kenya has already thought about it and has a solution: Evans Wadongo has finally made the children to say goodbye to this horrible situation by making for them a small lantern using scrab metal, small solar panels, cheap batteries and LED lights (Pure application of Physical Electronics).
Mr. Wadongo has already made about 14000 such lanterns, freeing about 50000 Kenyan pairs of eyes from the horrible kerosene smoke, hence saving about 50000 dreams in Kenya and he still goes on!
Who is Wadongo?
Evans Wadongo was born 11 March 1986 in the Western Part of Kenya and he grew up there with his four brothers. He went to a rural primary school-Bisunu Primary school, where he used to walk over 10 km daily to reach the school. His home and school had no electricity. Evans is the youngest of a family of five. Both his father and mother are teachers.
Evans braved the odds to join Kakamega High School where he managed to graduate with top marks, and was listed among the top 100 best students in Kenya. He later joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and graduated in July 2009 with a BSc in Electronics and Computer Engineering.
While at the university, Evans was an active member of the Rotaract Club (part of Rotary International), where he participated in various community initiatives, including the donation of clothes to children homes and street clean up campaigns.
He joined Sustainable Development For All-Kenya (SDFA-Kenya) a non profit in 2006. SDFA-Kenya was officially registered by the NGO Coordination Board in June 2007 and its primary focus is environment, education and economic empowerment. Evans was the founding Chairman. SDFA-Kenya adopted the ‘Use Solar, Save Lives' programme as its main focus program as it combines the three aspects of education, environment and economic empowerment. Apart from being the Chairman of the organization, Evans doubled up as a Project Manager from 2006 to 2008. From 2008 to July 2010, Evans was the Chairman and Programs Director. He is currently the Executive Director and Chairman of SDFA-Kenya and the President of SDFA-US.
Source: Wikipedia
Here is the story of the Hero, as told in CNN:
The youngest of four children, Wadongo grew up in a home that stressed the importance of education -- his father was a high school teacher. But years of exposure to smoke while studying by kerosene and firelight left Wadongo with eyesight problems.
With a lack of good light to study by -- Wadongo often had to share one lantern with his siblings and other family members -- he remembers the frustration of unfinished homework and poor exam performance.
"I couldn't compete effectively with other kids who had access to lighting," he said. "In every home in the village it was the same. Many children drop out of school for these reasons ... so they remain poor for the rest of their life. All along I was asking myself if there is anything that can be done to improve this situation."
In 2004, while attending Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Wadongo found his answer. He was fiddling with a dorm experiment involving the timing of LED (light-emitting diode) Christmas lights when it struck him: The environmentally friendly light source could be used to light rural homes.
"I knew it would have to be sourced by the sun to be useful to people in rural areas," he said, "but had never seen a solar panel small enough for individual homes."
Then, while walking home from visiting a friend, Wadongo stumbled upon a broken-off piece of a discarded solar panel. With it, he was able to light a small number of LEDs. His project -- Use Solar, Save Lives -- was then born!
Source: CNN-Nairobi
Where Did the idea come from?
I thought I was alone when I said that I am a witness to the horrible true story but I was long. It so happens that Evans went through the same.
"I used to see the disparities", recalls Wadongo, "in terms of performance for kids that are in the village and kids that are in schools with access to electricity."
He continues, "Teachers would give you homework and expect you to have finished early the next morning, with no understanding whether you had kerosene at home or not. You have to use kerosene lamps because you have to read, and in order to produce enough light you have to put it on a table close to you. The consequence is that it produces a lot of smoke. This happened to me and the smoke entered my eyes, making me to develop eye problems."
Wadongo recalls how he saw kids in the village drop out of school due to lack of money to buy kerosene. In the Samburu culture, for example, children are supposed to take care of their herds during daytime, coinciding with official schooling hours in Kenya. This leaves only the option of scheduling classes at night, hence necessitating the need for light.
"This is the real motivation that made me to try and come up with a way to find a solution to that problem", explains the CNN Hero, better known to us as Wadongo.
Mr. Wadongo has named his solar powered lanterns "MwangaBora", a Swahili Phrase meaning "good light".
Since 2004 when he started the project, Wadongo has designed and distributed over 14000 lamps all over Kenya, reaching out to over 50000 people in Kenya. His target is that through this project, each child can have his/her lamp.
How Effective is the Project?
Here is the strategy that makes Wadongo a real hero: By distributing the lamps cheaply to Kenyans, they can safe a lot in the money they could be spending in Kerosene. Look at it this way: in a week, a family uses at lease a litre of Kerosene in lighting alone. If one litre costs Ksh. 90, that makes the family's expenditure on Kerosene Ksh.360 per month, i.e Ksh.4320 per year. After getting the MwangaBora which uses the freely available solar energy, the family does  not need kerosene anymore and this amount could go to savings. After saving, the family can invest this money in an income generating activity. This makes Wadongo's project an effective tool to eliminate the poverty cycle which most of the Kenyans encounter.
He is your Role Model!
Wadongo is not just a CNN Hero, he is my hero and I bet he is yours too. Though his seems a very simple project, it is surely a unique thought that no one could think of before. This is the true reflection of life: There is that idea you have had at the back of your mind but you ignore it thinking it is so simple and anyone else can come up with it and implement it: Wrong! If we let out our minds just like Wadongo, the "Dark Continent of Africa" into a "bright continent"!
Imagine a Kenya where this is the song in every young mouth:
      _________________________
      This Little Light of Mine,
      I'm gonna Let it Shine,
      This Little Light of Mine,
      I'm gonna let it Shine,
      This Little Light of Mine,
      I'm gonna Let it Shine,
      Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine
      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Know More about Wadongo and Help!
You do want the song to continue, don’t you? You can show support to Wadongo to motivate him to keep the light shining:
Want to get involved? Check out the Use Solar, Save Lives Web site and see how to help.

2 comments:

  1. This is absolutely a top-drawer blog. Never at any one point had it occurred to me that I hail from the same village with Wadongo, Actually Bisunu is my very home, If you ask him he will tell you there is a cattle dip and that is exactly where I come from. What you have said about the quandary of school children in that place is quite true. I feel this acts as a wake up call for all of us to embrace Wadongo's spirit of the betterment of humanity. This is quite inspirational and remarkable. Keep up the good job. kudos. Also find time and check out http://walkashedid-mulupi.blogspot.com

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  2. Thanks Dan, it is an encouragement and I hope we will mean what we say more. By the way, I have been checking the blog, I even saw it listed among the top 98 christian blogs at http://www.christiancounselingdegree.org/best-christian-blogs/ Keep up man.

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