Setting: Pap-Onditi is a very small village in far western Kenya a few miles off the southeastern shore of Lake Victoria. It is about an hour’s drive from Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya and it lies in a very dry and flat geographic area that surrounds the eastern edge of the lake. September is near the end of their long, 6-month dry season.
I estimated and was told that about 5%-10% of the houses in the area are connected to the electrical grid and less than 1% have electricity generated by solar panels. Fuel is universally wood (tree branches) for cooking and either kerosene or liquid paraffin for light. Some households also use common candles as a source of light. Kerosene/paraffin costs about a $1 USD (100 Kenyan shillings) per day for about half a liter. This amount lasts less than a week. Kerosene/paraffin is considered expensive in Pap-Onditi.
Partner Non-profit: I-Kodi is a small non-profit started by an increasingly dear friend, Daniel Ochiel. Daniel was raised without a father by his illiterate mother in abject poverty, (his words). Food was hit and miss, the source of water was a mile away and he didn’t get his first pair of shoes until he was in the 7th grade. Despite these obstacles he excelled in school, passing his examinations at the highest level as he passed to secondary school, university and grad school where he earned a doctor of veterinary medicine degree. He then, by more or less miraculous means, ended up at Dartmouth College where he earned a PhD in microbiology. After a couple of years on the faculty at both Harvard Medical School and Columbia he returned to Kenya and is now running one of the largest basic science labs in the world searching for an HIV vaccine.
I-Kodi stands for Konditi Development Initiative-International and its board members are split between Dartmouth faculty and Pap-Onditi residents. Konditi is the name of Daniel’s primary school. The school has 380 students age 3-15 in grades Pre-K – 8th grade and 14 teachers.
Purpose of Trip: I was wearing several hats on this trip. Primarily I was following up on the usage and usefulness of on the 96 Luci Lights AATL had donated to Konditi School last year. I wanted to get images of their use, interview the users, and confirm that the lights were having a positive result. I also brought 40 Luci Lights with me to give out during my 5 days in the area.
Results: The effect of 6th, 7th and 8th graders using Luci Lights is profound. There has been a 10-point mean gain in all scores in these grades since the students started using Luci Lights. That is bettering by one entire grade! This was confirmed by Konditi’s test scores which are meticulously recorded and through interviews with teachers, parents and students. This of course makes perfect sense. Without the Luci Lights students cannot effectively study at night. And remember, night on the equator is 12 hours long but darkness inside their houses lasts about 2 hours longer.
Luci Lights also had a strong positive effect on the health of the students. Over half of the students in the three grades using Luci Lights reported that prior to the lights they suffered burns by the kerosene flame or developed a cough and/or eye irritation from the noxious smoke.
When I asked the students, in general, if they liked the Luci Lights there was an immediate, strong and very positive response. Here are some of the written responses I received when I asked the 7th and 8th graders on their thoughts on Luci Lights-
…it has helped our family so much and it has more light. Long time we used to have a candle and sometimes it may melt and we didn’t have any other option but to sleep without eating or reading. But nowadays we have Lucy light and it have helped us a lot.
Victor Ochieng, Grade 7
… before I was using a Luci light I was using a small lamp. Sometimes there is no kerosene and maybe the lamp went off. I can not do my homework peaceful my mom force me to go and sleep without doing my homework. Now since given Luci light I can do my homework peaceful. It has changed my life. Julie D. Grade 7
…My Luci light has changed my life because it has make me to improve in my studies. The teachers were also congratulating me because of the good work I was doing. I was very happy and kept the secret which make me to improve. The secret was my usage of Luci light at night. Luci light is always put outside for sometime so that it can be charged so as to light well. I am so glad and I thank you for giving me the Luci light.
Jackline Odhiambo, Grade 7
As mentioned earlier, I also gave out 40 lights to the residents of Pap-Onditi. These went on a mostly random basis to market stall owners who sold vegetables street-side, to a corn meal grinder, to a welder, to a woman with two sewing machines, to an 80 year old woman living mostly by herself, to several young mothers with school children not at Konditi and to two old, always present men who occasionally turned out to be helpful.
Summary: It is no wonder that providing additional light at night improves the life of all involved but it is nice to be able to confirm this. All of the people I met where effusively grateful and sincerely thankful for lights AATL had provided. I was stopped by parents many times and thanked for the lights. The students are all enthusiastic learners- they have the strong will to learn they just lack all the tools. They want to read more, they want to study more, they want to do better.
Konditi Primary School is the leading primary school (out of 70 total schools) in the district due to the AATL Luci Light program and the lunch feeding program. The school is getting increased acclaim and is thus attracting better students and better teachers that want to teach and stay at Konditi. There are still many and troublesome problems at the school- crowded Pre-K classes, few teaching supplies, a nonfunctioning library with few books, broken desks and chairs, blackboards with wide holes and problematic latrines- but the pervasive attitude is one of excitement and commitment to learning by all involved.