Solar Lanterns Keep Kigali, Rwanda Thriving

By Patrick Foley, Global BrightLight Foundation volunteer, who recently lived and worked for two months in Rwanda.

Living in Kigali, Rwanda, the unique happens almost by default.  This is the story of how solar lanterns boost both those without and those with access to electricity.

The town I live in, Kacyiru, is a densely populated neighborhood complete with steep hills, laughing children, and oh … did I mention power lines? Yes the city of Kigali has an electrical grid.  But this gift comes with one predictable surprise: power outages.  Every few days or so the government decides to shut off power to areas of Kigali. We don’t know when or where.  An intriguing combination of traits Kigali has are being a developed (and developing)bustling city, but also being vulnerable.  The sun sets around 6 p.m. every night.  Darkness falls.

Unfortunately, this means tens of thousands of people at any given time are without power, sometimes hours at a time.  What can they do to see at night?  Businesses, homes and commercial buildings all essentially come to a halt.  This translates to lost productivity for anyone on the spectrum, be it the local business or the hoards of schoolchildren in need of dependable light.

Enter our solar-powered lamps: When the city shuts down during work hours, it is light that keeps the wheels in motion.  Doing our part to keep the hinges greased, Global BrightLight, in addition to serving those in the villages and without access to electricity, is also interested in spreading light in the big city as well.  One of our lamps single-handedly kept a local restaurant open for business.

Without light these businesses cannot operate.  Most do not have a generator.  This leaves them searching for a dependable alternative when – click – surprise, no more lights.  More and more, people are turning to GBL’s lamps to fill in the gaps.  One thing I can now say for sure:  spreading clean and bright light really is a tide that lifts all boats, big and small.  As word spreads, so do our solar lamps.  Businesses and individuals we never planned to impact are feeling the productive impact.

While we continue to mainly focus on rural areas, it is a welcome surprise I thought worth sharing with you that external benefits are being felt by all here in Rwanda.