105-year-old Rwandan refugee shines on!

December 2016

We may have just found our oldest Little Sun fan yet- a 105-year-old Rwandan woman!

Three months after we brought 300 Little Sun lamps to elderly refugees in the Gihembe refugee camp, our partner UNHCR Rwanda paid the recipients a visit to speak with them about their experience with the lamp and how it has impacted on their lives. One of the recipients they spoke with was 105 – and may be our oldest Little Sun fan yet…

As we reported back in July 2016, 300 Little Sun solar lamps were distributed to elderly people aged from 70 and above, from 300 different households in Gihembe refugee camp.  All the beneficiaries are elderly and fragile; who live either alone or with children.

Gihembe refugee camp is located in Byumba town, 60 km north from Kigali. It was established in December 1997 to host refugees who fled conflicts in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The choice to support elderly refugees with Little Sun lamps in this case stemmed from the fact that lack of lighting is one of the biggest problems refugees in Gihembe face. The absence of public lighting means that older people in particular are restricted each and every night in their freedom of movement. Many have eye problems so they are dependent on a strong source of lighting just to undertake basic tasks like cooking and reading after sunset. Without a strong source of light they are afraid to leave their homes after dark, to go to the latrine, for example, as they fear to fall and hurt themselves. Living in fear is of course no way to live. A simple solar light restores dignity and safety and brings a far better quality of life after dark.

 

The results our partner reported back from the elderly refugees were very positive.

All of the recipients said that they found the lamp easy to use, reliable and trustworthy and that it helped them save money (an alternative to buying expensive kerosene and candles). Crucially, they said that the lamp improved their living conditions at night and that now they would feel more secure while moving at night with their Little Sun lamp in hand.

The majority of recipients reported that they use their light for reading, cooking, dining as well as moving around at night to use latrines and visit neighbours. It’s clear to see that having a lamp enabled the elderly people to socialise more and build closer connections with their fellow refugees after dark.

Additionally, of the 26 people that are living with children in their houses, 16 reported that their children are now able to study longer at night. 13 people no longer had (or had very little) smoke in their houses, thanks to the use of solar over fossil fuel-based energy.

On an emotional level, all of the refugees expressed that the lamp makes them feel happier than before.  All of them reported that the light gave them a feeling of joy and well-being and they relate the Little Sun to something very positive, in contrast with the rather harsh living conditions of the camp.

Meanwhile, our partner UNHCR Rwanda has also started an entrepreneurial program in Gihembe, providing training to 200 people who will become sales agents of Little Sun lamps. Their careers have been kick-started with seed capital so they can start to test the market demand. The program has already been very successful.

 

Source:

UNHCR Rwanda, Impact Report on the usage of the Little Sun Solar Lamp in Gihembe, November 2016.

 

Photo credits:

1: NYIRAKAREMA Immaculee (95/F) © UNHCR Rwanda

2: NYIRABUKIRE Asinati (71/F) © UNHCR Rwanda