Dear Members and Friends,
Three board members traveled to Sierra Leone last month for various reasons. I went to participate in the opening of the completed school in Kenema Blango that FoSL and SLVP sponsored. Judy Figi and Gary Schulze went for a separate school project sponsored by the Magic Penny.
Through the assistance of a wonderful Sierra Leonean woman and the International Medical Corps, I received 100 solar chargers to take with me and share with appropriate and needy recipients in Salone. Since I was going to be primarily in the Bo and Taiama area, and since there are already charging stations for cell phones in Bo, I wanted to try to get them as spread out as possible and in locations that they would serve the most good. By Judy, Gary and Lucy helping, we reached a broader area.
Initially I thought that we would probably give one charger per person and was hoping it would be mostly to school girls so they could raise needed educational fees. However, it was obvious even before I left the States that this probably wouldn’t work since the chargers take a while to charge and are depleted after one charging. So I suggested at least two and I was thinking it would probably take even more than that to have a significant impact.
I also realized that just as useful for the chargers was to give them to people in areas that had no electricity at all, but needed cell phones for serious issues – such as health workers. So I did give some to be used for that and not to generate income. One or two were given to people in neither group because I thought they needed one.
Meghan Welsh, PCV in Moyamba, agreed to help hand a few out as well. We felt like she had a good idea of who may be able to use one. She absolutely had a brilliant idea which was recently reported on in the Peace Corps newsletter by Liz Clark, another PCV who served as the “middle man” in the transfer. I have copied the small article by Liz below this email.
I want to thank Josephine Garnem and the International Medical Corps for making this experimental project possible. There is no way I could have gotten those chargers without their kind assistance. We will be trying to follow up on the success or not of the chargers with the ones given as a way to raise money. So far, they have helped one woman already who is using the income to send her children to school.
Meghan will be participating in our annual meeting at the Penn Center in South Carolina in August. Join us and you can hear what she has to say about the Peace Corps in Salone now.
“PCV Liz Clark shares the following learning: Communication is important and difficult in Sierra Leone. In my village, like many small villages, there is no way for people to charge phones. With the help of Friends of Sierra Leone and Meghan Welsh, we were able to start a small solar power program in my village. We gave seven solar chargers to a friend of mine with a small business and she established the first means of charging phones in the Chiefdom. Although the program has its difficulties, especially in the rainy season, it has turned out to be quite successful. In the first week, when half the time it was raining, she made LE24,000 – quite a lot in my village. I would highly recommend this program to other PCVs in small villages where there are no other means of charging. For more information about obtaining chargers or what I am learning about how to make this type of microenterprise project work, feel free to contact me.”