We help schoolchildren in Kenya achieve their academic potential. We give Mwezi solar lights to schools for them to lend to their top year (usually age 12-14) so they can do their homework at night, especially in the run up to their final exams. As it is dark in Kenya from 6pm until 6am, being able to study until 10pm and from 5am, as many do, makes a massive difference to their exam (KCPE) results.
We support schools in rural locations where pupils don’t have any electricity at home, and often no or only intermittent electricity at school. We lend light libraries of 16 lights at a time, which the schools then lend onto their students. We aim to have no more than one light between two students. This means that students have to share, which makes them accountable for their lights, and ensures they come into school to collect their lights.
The Mwezi light was developed by us, and refined to ensure that it is easy to take apart and fix. We are absolutely committed to minimum waste. Our schools managers replace any broken lights and take them back to the workshop near Mombasa for our technician, John, to fix. We then re-donate those lights. We buy components wherever we can – it is difficult to source them in Kenya – then John assembles the lights in his workshop. The £12.50 cost covers parts, labour, delivery by one of our schools managers via public transport, and indefinite maintenance.
Sustainability and Transparency
We believe we are unique. There are lots of solar light providers now, some very large organisations. Many are social enterprises. They buy in cheap lights from China at about £3.50 each and sell them on at cost. They definitely play an important role in providing light to families. However, there is no maintenance included. In our experience, in the harsh African conditions, solar panels and lights last up to 2 years. Unless there is a follow up planned, these lights will soon just generate waste.
By maintaining a relationship with the schools, ensuring that lights are shared, paying our staff to visit even if just to collect and replace broken lights, we aim to generate minimum waste and make sure the lights and components are used as efficiently as possible. We also donate our lights and never ask for any payment.
None of our UK Directors is paid. They donate their time and help fund the charity financially. They pay their own expenses on their visits to the schools. We are delighted to have been given a grant to pay a UK fundraiser a very basic wage. Otherwise, all our salary costs are spent on our Kenyan staff.
We recognise that when a pupil has a Mwezi solar light for the night, the whole family benefits. This means that they don’t need to use an expensive, dangerous and unhealthy kerosene light for the night. Each Mwezi solar light can replace one kerosene lamp, which independent thinktank the Ecologic Institute has estimated saves 517kg of CO2 per light per year. Kerosene exposure is strongly associated with respiratory and skin problems, and of course ill-health impedes studying and working. Mwezi lights therefore benefit everyone in the home.