Friday, June 30, 2017

Madame M of Gicaca

Each of the 100+ households where we installed wiring for electricity has a story to tell.  For example, there was this one headed by a couple with 5 children.    They were one of the poorest people in the country, with few belongings.  They used to have goats, a radio, and a battery-powered flash light. 

Then the mother got sick.  She didn’t mentioned the cost for the treatment at the hospital. I heard that for the poorest, government insurance cover the medical expenses.   But she emphasised that the hospital was far away.  Transport by motorbike to the hospital costed 3,000 Rwandan franc (rwf), which is equivalent to about 3.5 US dollars; and another 3,000 rwf coming back.  Because of her illness they had to sell the goats and the radio.  Now they use candles when they can afford them.  They eat their dinner at 7 PM and go to bed at 8 PM.  There is just not much that you can do in the dark.  

We realised last year that radios were in demand.  Hence we bought a bunch of small inexpensive radios from China to give one household each.  With the radio, they can listen to news, job advertisements and more. While our team interviewed the mother, her daughter was hovering nearby listening to Christian music non-stop on the new radio. They must have been starved of entertainment since the old radio was sold.  

The mother is now more hopeful.  She it taking medicine for her illness.  With the car battery-powered LED lights, they can have friends to visit at night, and stay up until 9 PM.  Life is slightly easier and more tolerable.  

The material costs for the battery, wiring, LED lights, radio, phone chargers, etc., come up to around 50 USD.  Even when we add in the cost of the solar panels, amortised over the 20+ households that each charging station serves, the cost per household is approximately only 60 USD.  But what a difference it makes for the lady’s household!

Both of my students who interviewed her were Christians. They prayed for her at the end of the interview.  Their problems are not all over.  But they are more hopeful.  When we left, she was smiling broadly.  

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