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N.G.O. Uses Plastic Water Bottles To Illuminate Kiandutu Homes And ‘Light Up’ The Ghetto Kids.

Top Right: Carol (extremely right) and her assistant pose for a pic with Mercy Wangari, one of the beneficiaries of the bottle bulbs.
For many of us living, it is understandable if we took for granted our electric lights, windows and skylights to access the sun’s glow, but for those living in the slums, any stray ray is welcome, and anything that can spread light to the darkest interior corners is usually regarded as a dream come true by the residents of these shanties.

During a recent visit to Kiandutu Slums, our team came across a very rare but interesting innovation that was lighting up the dark houses in the slum and also the lives of so many ghetto children under a project ran by one N.G.O. In its mission to help save the lives of children aged five and below within the slums, ‘Give A Child Life Kenya’ (GCLK) realised that many homes were under-illuminated even during the day with few lights or windows. This problem made it very hard for these children to see anything or do any homework while inside the houses as they were too dark to even see anything.

Considering that majority of these families could not afford to install or pay for electricity bill, this group thought of an idea to light up these homes without relying on electricity. After thorough research, they bounced into Alfredo Moser’s invention that used plastic bottle filled with water, jik detergent (bleach) and the principle of refraction to light up these dark rooms during the day.

Carol Mbugua the country’s Program Manager says that they came up with the idea of lighting up the houses after visiting several of their beneficiaries and realised how dark their houses were even during daytime. She reckons that even though the bulb only lights up the house during the days, they have realised that its rays can also charge a re-chargeable torch, thus guaranteeing more light during the night using the now re-charged torch. To install one bottle bulb only takes about 10-15 minutes so it is never a tedious job.  

“To install the ‘bulb’, a hole is drilled on the mabati sheets and a coca cola 2-litre plastic bottle filled with crystal clear water and some bleach is pushed in from below, then glued into that hole, thus waterproofing it. Even when it rains, the roof never leaks. The bleach is meant to protect the water against turning green with algae. The cleaner the bottle, the better. Depending on how strong the sun is, this bulb produces between 40 and 60 watts,” says Carol.

Carol adds that the bulb can last for between two to five years, functioning like a 55 watt bulb without costing a penny and better still, it is a zero carbon emitting solar lighting system thus very environmental friendly. She also says that one cannot get an electric shock from it, making it a very safe and ideal source of light.

With the high cost of electricity, many homes Kiandutu slums fall back on candles or kerosene lamps during the day with some daring few hooking up to electricity lines illegally. Carol says that this new initiative has therefore gained popularity and many of the slum dwellers are coming up to them for ‘connection’.

80 year old Esther Nzula is one of the beneficiaries of these bulbs and who apart from being elderly, is also nursing her ailing daughter who no longer can be able to get out of the house. She says that they no longer have difficulties navigating within the house as there is enough light to brighten the house. Her daughter Elizabeth Kalondu says that she never knew when it is day or night as the house was so dark throughout.

“I can now tell when it is day and when the night falls. As you can see, I never get out of the house due to my illness,” says Kalondu.

Mercy Wangari, another beneficiary, has all but praises to the new innovation. She says that her children used to do their homework outside the house even during the day as the room was too dark to see anything.

“Since they installed these bulbs into my house, my children comfortably study inside the house. Everything in the house is quite visible and there nothing that you cannot do in the house now. I no longer light any KPLC bulb during the day and therefore I save money that could have otherwise been used to pay electricity bills. The days when we used to light candles and lamps are gone and we no longer worry leaving the children behind doing their homework,” said Wangari.

She says that cases of fires caused by burning candles and lamps are now on the decrease thanks to the new bulbs being installed to their houses.

In consultation with the director of the Kiandutu Health Clinic, they have installed these mabati bulbs in the homes of all families with TB to reduce the disease incidence. Others targeted for solar bulbs include children and families with HIV, pregnant mothers, lactating mothers, local pre-schools and schools.

They have already installed over 1000 bottle lights in Kiandutu, Matharau, Gacagi Slums in Thika and other informal settlements in Kenya.

Carol says that the idea behind ‘Give A Child Life’ emanated from the high number of needy children that were being referred to various children’s homes within the country, a factor that the N.G.O. found not to be right as they felt that these children needed not to be separated from their parents. They thought of coming up with an idea where they could assist the children while they were still under the warmth of their parents.

“If you look at the situation in Kiandutu for instance, every 500 metres you walk you meet a malnourished under 5 year old kid being left alone as their parents go out to seek for casual jobs. We therefore thought of taking care of the young children as their parents were out there working,” says Carol.

Through donations from friends and well-wishers, GCLK feeds the children during the day and also offer daycare services to the very young. They also pay school fees to the ECDE pupils within their care.

Currently, they have about 80 regular kids under their care, a number that sometimes swell up to 200 during school holidays. They are paying school fees for 50 children in the ECDE level.

They are welcome to any form of donations in cash and in kind, more so the food donations. To get in touch with them you can visit their site at www.giveachildlife.org/Mabati-Bulbs.html or contact Caroline via carombugua@giveachildlife.org or call their office mobile 0717095972.

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