Lifeline Energy

Lifeline Energy is a non-profit social enterprise that provides sustainable information and education access to vulnerable populations. We achieve this by designing, manufacturing and distributing solar and wind-up media players and radios for classroom and group listening. Since 1999, we have distributed more than 500,000 power independent radios to provide on-demand access to information and education, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years we have received numerous awards including the Tech Museum of Innovation Award, a World Bank Development Marketplace Award and an Index: Design to Improve Life Award. In addition, our founder and CEO Kristine Pearson was named one of TIME magazi...
Oct 30, 2015

The Glory Listening Group can't wait until Friday

The Glory listening group
The Glory listening group

I met Proper, the mother of two small children, while on my recent trip to Zambia to visit our projects there. She’s a member of the “Glory” listening group, which gathers together each Friday morning under the generous shade of a mango tree to listen to what they’ve named “Counsellor” – our Lifeplayer.  “We yearn for Friday to come to listen to the Counsellor. We call it that because gives us very helpful advice”, she said with a smile. Proper lives just outside a district town in western Zambia,which is particularly hot and dusty at this time of year.  Most of the women here are subsistence farmers or, like Proper, sellers of fruits and vegetables. And everyone is anxious for the rains, which are due to fall any time now.

“What have you learned from listening to the Lifeplayer?” was one of the many questions I asked the women (and two men) of the Glory mother’s group.  The answers came fast: “how to breastfeed correctly”, “that I must breastfeed for at least six months”, “what I must do if my baby has a fever”, “that I must take my baby to the clinic if she is sick”, “what to do if my baby has a blocked nose”. Heartbreakingly, some of the women had lost children because they hadn’t known what to do when their babies were ill.  What the women appreciate about the Lifeplayer is that they can listen and re-listen to the health and nutrition programmes when it suits them, as well as radio programmes.  And if a woman can’t make the Friday discussion, she can listen to that week’s programme at her convenience, so she’s prepared for the next discussion.  

When I asked the Glory group of 25 or so women, all dressed in Chitengie, or traditional colourful African cotton cloth, how many had a radio at home, six raised their hands.  They don’t listen often, however, due to the high cost of batteries, which are about $.50 for a pair. Justin, one of the two fathers in the group, said he had a radio and listened when he was relaxing.  We all had a good laugh at the thought of a woman relaxing.  Their work is never done. When I asked about cell phones, only about half owned one.  No one listened to the radio on their phones. 

I also enquired as to what other programmes the women would like to hear. Apart from the 1000 Days of Motherhood content from the National Food and Nutrition Council (NFNC), they wanted literacy programmes, they wanted to learn how to “make” a business, and they wanted more information on how to care for livestock as many owned cows or goats.

During my time in Zambia I visited a number of women’s listening groups. Each group started small and has grown. One started with 20 and has now split into two groups with 25 participants each, sharing one Lifeplayer.  What struck me so forcibly is the sense of social cohesion and interdependency among the women in these communities. Coming together in a listening group each Friday to support one another and to share what little they have forms a natural extension of community life for women like Proper; and it’s why they so look forward to their Friday meetings.

As always, when I return from visiting Zambia, I feel re-inspired and motivated to do everything I can to bring Lifeplayers to women who have a profound desire to continue to learn. 

Oct 7, 2015

There's a growing demand for Lifeplayers in Zambia

The Learning at Taonga Market radio distance education directly addresses SDG#4 or the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Taonga has a great track record of teaching children to read and write, as advocated by Project Literacy. We’re thrilled to be seeing a renewed push for and focus on literacy, and see an important role for Lifeline Energy in this – providing a cost-effective tool that’s able to reach tens of thousands of children in remote and deprived areas, particularly in Africa. 

Primary school lessons in reading, writing and life skills training are loaded onto the Lifeplayer, allowing children to make up a missed lesson or to listen as often as they like.  Lifeplayers are placed in community-based schools as a priority, often called ‘radio schools’, where a literate adult or teaching mentor coordinates the classes and provides support to the learners.

Books and stories can be loaded as well. Many children in rural areas have parents who are illiterate and unable to read to their children.  The Lifeplayer provides an alternative voice.

Children in Taonga Market radio schools often score higher than in conventional government classrooms.  This is why the Ministry of Education is rolling out the project to a further 200 schools and community centres in eastern Zambia. With the fall in copper prices, which is the country’s main export earner, the ministry has had its budget cut.  They’re relying on us to provide the Lifeplayers and we’re relying on you, our donors, to help us.

Our CEO Kristine Pearson will be visiting Zambia this month to visit radio schools and plan the rollout with the Ministry of Education.

Sep 22, 2015

Where radio is king (and queen)...

Radio is king (and queen) in the eastern Kissi area of Sierra Leone, and it is here that dozens of our Prime radios and our Lifeplayers have recently been distributed by one of our partners, Child to Child. Kissi is the area where Ebola first entered Sierra Leone from Guinea.  People here live in small, remote and unelectrified villages and subsistence farm for a living.

Kissi communities were thrilled to receive the radios, as they now have access to news and information. In addition, our partners Child to Child have produced educational radio programs that have been well received by the government. They’re child-friendly and culturally relevant, which is why plans are afoot to broadcast nationally.   

Lack of trusted information was one of the reasons that Ebola spread so quickly in areas like Kissi.  People were wholly unprepared for the onslaught of the virus. Our Lifeplayers have been distributed to teaching champions, who will use them to play Child to Child's programs that focus on enhancing children’s social, literacy, numeracy and life skills. Created for children aged 4-6, 7-12, and 12-18, the programs are designed not only to be educational, but entertaining and inspiring too.  By the time you next hear from us, we’ll have a lot more information and some great photos to share. 

In other areas of Sierra Leone, our emergency Polaris radios have been distributed to families and schoolgirls. The story that moved us most was from Fatmata, who reminded us in a few words why a solar and wind-up radio is so valuable: “I could not afford to buy batteries because I preferred to feed my family”. You can read Fatmata’s story here.

The tragedy of Ebola will live on for many years in Sierra Leone. It will be seen in the devastation of families who have lost mothers, breadwinners and children. It will be seen in the loss of teachers and nurses in communities. And it will be felt in the economy of a country where most of its citizens already live in poverty.

Thank you for the difference you have made in the lives of families in Sierra Leone, by giving the gift of information and education.  

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