Lighting homes with kerosene and flashlights is the largest single expense for villagers in rural Liberia, and the smartest way to control that expense is to stop buying kerosene and batteries. So, Village Improvement Project's new goal is to send 100 home solar kits to help provide years of zero-cost clean renewable energy to families in rural Liberia where children can have bright and safe lighting to study at night and families can extend their activities into the night.
The shift from solar lanterns to solar home kits which are more expensive per unit comes from our monitoring visits and observations about how the solar lanterns are being used by villagers in Liberia. Over the years, individual users of the portable lanterns have not handled well the cable wire connected to the solar panel that charges the lantern. The wire breaks off due to the frequency of charging required to maintain power in the light. Due to the remoteness of some towns and villages, some users are unable to repair the cable and the lithium battery goes dead after a prolonged period without charge.
With a home solar kit, the panel is installed on the roof and permanently connected to the control box or hub which prevents wear-and-tear.
Village Improvement Project’s Chairman of the Board, Dr. LeRoy Boikai, will be traveling to Liberia next month. While he is there, he will be visiting areas where we have distributed solar lanterns. He will also be meeting with our Liberian volunteer and paid staff who have been actively monitoring the use of lanterns that we have distributed over the past two years.
Some of the previously distributed lanterns are no longer functioning. The team has collected these lanterns and brought them to Monrovia for repair to be returned as soon as the repair is completed. Observation from the field attributes some of the light failures to mishandling and improper charging that have led to dead batteries.
We will continue to educate villagers on effective ways to use their lights so that they remain in service for a much longer time of three to four years. A major goal of this project is to implement a good recycling program so that lights that are no longer in service can be retrieved, repaired and when no longer functioning to be disposed of properly.
VIP is also seeking corporate sponsors to donate lanterns. Our partnership with Panasonic enabled us to donate 300 solar lanterns. Your generous support makes it possible for us to continue pursuing similar grants and partnerships.
Village Improvement Project is expanding its outreach in Liberia. Thanks to your generous donations we are now able to address vital lighting needs in health centers as well as in schools and village homes.
Our Country Director, Miatta Johnson, recently visited the Tenegar Community Clinic to follow up on the impact of the solar lanterns that you and the VIP community donated. She found out that the health center really needs additional good quality lighting for better health care and reduced mortality for mothers and newborns. Due to high infant mortality, midwives are asked to bring expectant mothers to the clinic to give birth and a lot of deliveries occur at night.
VIP Chairman, Dr. LeRoy Boikai, and the VIP team researched solar lighting solutions for the clinic and found a powerful and reliable solar suitcase from We Care Solar that costs only $2000. In addition to providing good quality light for safer deliveries, the Solar Suitcase can be used to perform fetal monitoring before birth. Health care workers can use the suitcase to charge their cell phones so that they can stay in touch with their supervisors and with doctors in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
We know that our recipients are making the best of our donations. It makes us especially happy to hear how kids can study as they need using the solar lanterns we provide and are not limited to daylight hours. We think too about how these children will contribute to their community, their society, their country, Liberia and ultimately the world and this drives us to do more.
In this 2018 annual report, we share what we've achieved for the year, our financial report, our valued people and our exciting plans for 2019. Please take a few minutes to find out more about our Liberia Director of Operations, Ms. Miatta Johnson.
Raising the funds for our work continues to be a large part of our work in the United States. We use a variety of crowdfunding and other ways to source funding, but I especially want to share that members of our board of directors are walking the walk and contributed just over $3,600 in 2018.
After reading our annual report, I personally encourage you to follow us on social media and support our work either by promoting us among your networks, volunteering with us or donating if it is possible for you to do so.
Your generous donations to Village Improvement Project's Solar Lantern Project not only provide money for us to purchase and distribute lanterns but also funds our ability to apply for corporate grants. This year VIP was given a grant from Panasonic. Here is the report on the impact those lanterns made:
The donated Panasonic solar lanterns to Village Improvement Project were distributed to rural school teachers, healthcare workers, and orphan care administrators and staff. A total of 360 individuals received lanterns. Staff from 5 orphanages received 46 lanterns while staff from 5 clinics received 45 lanterns.
A total of 19 schools with 269 teachers received lanterns. Jenneh P from the Tenegar Community Clinic reported that because the lanterns are "strong and shine very well," she and her co-workers are now able to perform clinic duties for patients into the night. Jenneh reported that they no longer have to shut down the clinic at dusk time and ask the remaining patients of the day to come back the next day for treatment.
According to Jenneh, the clinic has been able to stay open longer and into the night because of access to the Panasonic lanterns. In addition, the clinic workers have used the lanterns to travel at night to various villages to conduct maternal health education. She said that prior to having the solar lanterns, they used candles and battery-operated flashlights but now with the lanterns, they can provide bright lights for everyone to see and participate in the training they provide. The biggest impact with use of the lantern at the Tenegar Community Clinic has been with the delivery of newborns. According to Jenneh, an average of 12 babies per month have been delivered at the clinic with the assistance of the solar lanterns and many of these babies have been delivered at night.
The lanterns have also saved each clinic worker an average of US $0.15 per day for charging their cell phones. There is no defect to any lantern to date since they went into use in February 2018 at the Tenegar Clinic. Jenneh and her co-workers express satisfaction with the lanterns because they are superior to any other form of lighting they have used in the past. They remain grateful for the excellent lights that are supporting them in more effective delivery of health care services to their patients.
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