Making a brighter future

July 09, 2011

Making a brighter future

Sat Jul 9 2011 

Page: A3 Section: News 


About 80 young people in Koboko, Uganda are about to have a brighter future thanks to a two-year fundraising project at Bishop Smith Catholic High School. 

Those involved in the school's Lights for Learning campaign recently gathered to celebrate the completion of the project, which managed to raise $1,500 to provide solar lights to people in Uganda. In addition, the Rotary Clubs of Pembroke and Petawawa also contributed matching funds to the project. 

Lights for Learning was an initiative of Bishop's social justice committee, with the help of teacher advisor Kathrin Winkler. Two students in particular, Stephanie Bissonnette and Breckyn Carlsson, worked closely with Ms. Winkler this past school year to see the campaign through to completion. She commended their commitment and dedication to the project, saying they never turned down a request to help with something associated with Lights for Learning. 

The majority of money was raised through the sale of Lights for Learning T-shirts. A design contest was held among senior art students at the school and the Grade 8 students voted on the best design, which was put on the T-shirts. Holding the design contest and the vote raised awareness of the campaign throughout the broader school community, Ms. Winkler noted. 

The lamps that are going to Uganda are being supplied by Petawawa's Glenergy, which also has offices in Tanzania and Uganda itself. The company's goal is to bring solar energy to North America and the developing world so it was more than happy to get involved with Bishop Smith's Lights for Learning campaign. 

Currently in Uganda, people use highly flammable and toxic kerosene lamps for light, which have several negative health and environmental impacts and the kerosene is also very expensive. Because of the cost to operate the lamps, they are used sparingly, which also impacts on the education of the children. 

The biggest benefit of solar power is its sustainability, noted Ellen Torvi, who does international marketing for Glenergy. "It has been shown that kids will read more if they have a better light source," added president Glen MacGillivray. Because the cost of solar energy for houses is so great, providing the solar lights is a way to improve the situation one person at a time, he said. 

Charles Male was born in Koboko and now lives in Ottawa and works for the Canadian government. He travelled to Bishop Smith with his son Alo Male to symbolically accept the cheque on behalf of the people of Koboko. 

"I am extremely happy the young people are interested in this project," he said. "They are the leaders of tomorrow." For those that will be lucky enough to receive a solar lamp, it will mean the world to them in terms of having reliable lighting which will allow them to study at any time. 

The biggest advantage of the solar lamps is the safety they will bring to the families as most live in houses made of grass and there was also a concern about the kerosene starting a fire. "They won't have to be told to put out the lamps because they are wasting the fuel," Mr. Male added. "It will be life changing for these kids." 

Wayne Campbell of the Hila Science Camp sees the Lights for Learning project as an extension of the sustainable energy initiatives being undertaken by the Catholic school board and he believes the social justice component is also important for today's youth. 

"This is a project that makes sense for Africa because there is lots of sunlight and where the sun shines electricity flows," he said. 

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