Solar Sister: Providing Light and Hope in Sub-Saharan Africa

Deciding to climb Africa’s highest mountain is no minor decision and it was a goal of mine for over 15 years. I had wanted to climb Kilimanjaro ever since my father scaled it in 2000, months before my wedding. Every time I thought of planning a climb, the timing just didn’t seem to work out and I kept pushing my dream further back on my “to do” list. Deep down inside, I was also a bit concerned about the altitude. I had been to almost 19,000 feet in Nepal and it was grueling. How would I feel even higher? 

All my doubts disappeared when I climbed two peaks in a row in Bolivia without any issues and realized my body was ready. Kilimanjaro was back on the list yet I needed to find someone willing to go.

A few months later, I received a call from a good friend of mine in Rhode Island who shared the exciting news. A small non-profit organization called Solar Sister was putting together a multi-generational, international team to climb Kilimanjaro in honor of bringing light to Africa. It felt like fate.

Without knowing a soul at Solar Sister, I joined their team of climbers and signed up to raise $4,000 to train 8 new Solar Sister Entrepreneurs and to celebrate Solar Sister’s five-year anniversary since its founding. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made, and I had an incredible trip. Perhaps what was even more inspiring than climbing Kilimanjaro itself was the group of people who have dedicated their lives to bringing solar electricity to Africa. The team at Solar Sister.

During our climb, I had the pleasure of learning about the inspiration behind Solar Sister and why their model of social entrepreneurship is thriving. I found their story so inspiring that I wanted to share it and introduce you to Solar Sister. Here is their story.

Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

Group shot of the Solar Sister climbers.

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World Bicycle Relief Zambia

Spread Joy and Opportunity – The Power of A Bicycle

This is a guest post written by Ruth-Anne Renaud who recently joined the team at World Bicycle Relief as director of global marketing. Her bio is located at the end of this post. 

I distinctly remember the Christmas I received my first bike. It was sparkly blue, with a banana seat, training wheels and a basket. I knew it would take me everywhere once the snow melted. This fall, new memories have been imprinted on my heart on what it means to receive a bike.

Destination: Zambia, Africa. I had just started my new role as Director of Global Marketing at World Bicycle Relief (WBR) and I participated in one of our immersion trips called Africa Rides. Together with about a dozen supporters and partners – I spent a week learning how a bicycle can transform the lives of students, healthcare workers, entrepreneurs and their communities.

At the outset of the trip, we spent a day at WBR’s Zambia headquarters to learn about the scale of the bike distribution program, the criteria for selecting field partners and recipients, and the deliberate, yet simple rugged design of the innovative Buffalo Bike. In fact – we had to assemble our own Buffalo Bike.

Here is a Bufollo Bike

Here is a Buffalo Bike (with a holiday bow that can be given to children and health workers in need via World Bicycle Relief).

It was a daunting task since I’m not particularly mechanically inclined. But I am proud to share – after a successful quality control check – I rode that bike over the next several days with our group of Africa Rides travelers visiting villages and schools. I physically experienced the searing mid-day heat, the distance and rugged dirt paths that felt like they were never quite going to end – to get to school, back home or to get water from an isolated well. I felt what it meant to be constantly chasing daylight.

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

Here I am helping a young girl ride her new bike.
Photo credit: World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

Here I am helping Grace learn about her new bike. 
Photo credit: World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

And she’s off!
Photo credit: World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

Riding through the gravel roads of Zambia
Photo Credit: World Bicycle Relief

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Fountain of Hope, Zambia

Fountain of Hope: Bringing hope to Zambia’s street children

Over the past ten days, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good and Global Team of 200, has been in Zambia as an International Press Reporting fellow covering HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and how these diseases impact mothers and children. She was selected to report in Zambia along with nine other new media journalists, who have all covered these topics from different perspectives. It has been amazing reading all the stories about their work and learning more about the conditions in Zambia.

One of the places that Jennifer and the fellows visited that I found truly inspiring was the Fountain of Hope center in Lusaka, Zambia. The Fountain of Hope was founded in 1996 by a group of local Zambians as a way to help rehabilitate the growing population of street children in Zambia’s capital. In a country of 14 million, it has been estimated that there are 75,000 street children throughout the country and 2,000 alone in the nation’s capital Lusaka. Oftentimes these children spend their days on the streets, not going to school and doing whatever they can to feed themselves and stay alive.

Fountain of Hope, Zambia

Fountain of Hope Center (Photo thanks to Jennifer James).

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