2004.10.06: October 6, 2004: Headlines: COS - Kenya: Service: NGOs: Solar Energy: North County News: Kenya RPCV Mark Maxam helps bring light to schools throughout Kenya

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kenya: The Peace Corps in Kenya: 2004.10.06: October 6, 2004: Headlines: COS - Kenya: Service: NGOs: Solar Energy: North County News: Kenya RPCV Mark Maxam helps bring light to schools throughout Kenya

By Admin1 (admin) (adsl-69-150-133-223.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 69.150.133.223) on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - 9:28 am: Edit Post

Kenya RPCV Mark Maxam helps bring light to schools throughout Kenya

Kenya RPCV Mark Maxam helps bring light to schools throughout Kenya

"We work with schools to come up with a better lighting solution to meet their needs," Maxam said. "It's amazing when you see these schools. Their conditions are really pretty rough. You're talking about all cement walls and floors, holes in the walls for windows, the blackboard is just a black square painted on the wall. The teacher walks into the room and you've got desks and chalk, and that's it. There's no electricity, no running water."

Kenya RPCV Mark Maxam helps bring light to schools throughout Kenya

Copper Beech teachers visit school in Kenya

North County News

October 6-12, 2004

by Amy Borrelli

Students at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School have never been able to use lack of electricity as an excuse for not completing homework assignments.

And now neither can students at Emalindi Secondary School in Kenya, where until this summer, nightfall basically meant lights out and pencils down.

Five Lakeland middle school teachers were among a group of volunteers who spent two weeks in Kenya in August helping to install a solar lighting system at Emalindi, an all-girl school near Lake Victoria. Emalindi, like most schools in Kenya, had no electricity or running water.

The project was organized by Jua, a nonprofit group founded by Lakeland eigth-grade science teacher Mark Maxam to bring light to schools throughout Kenya. "Jua" is the Swahili word for sun.

Maxam, who spent a few years in Kenya in the mid 90s with the Peace Corps, was joined by the following Lakeland Copper Beech teachers for the unusual summer vacation: Jackie Brady (English), Suzanne Llorian (special education), Mary Anderson (retired teacher/substitute), and Steve Trinkle (science).

"I felt it was a unique opportunity to do something," said Llorian. "I'd never been to Kenya - talk about a completely different part of the world. I thought that it would have to be an eye-opening experience. You have to take advantage when you can."

"It's a wonderful thing that they make a commitment and sacrifice to come," Maxam said. "Really, they pay their expenses and go there and volunteer to work, but they see a side of Kenya that a tourist doesn't. And they feel good about what they're doing. They're doing a wonderful thing. And you know it when you're working with the kids - they let you know."

Emalindi, with about 200 students, represents the sixth lighting project Jua has undertaken in Kenya.

"We work with schools to come up with a better lighting solution to meet their needs," Maxam said. "It's amazing when you see these schools. Their conditions are really pretty rough. You're talking about all cement walls and floors, holes in the walls for windows, the blackboard is just a black square painted on the wall. The teacher walks into the room and you've got desks and chalk, and that's it. There's no electricity, no running water."

Because most Kenyan students live at school out of necessity due to a lack of transportation, the lighting situation is especially difficult.

"The kids study at night with a lantern hanging from the middle of the large room. These things cause fires, there are fumes, the light's not that good. The conditions to study are rough. They have a lot more challenges than we do here to just get a basic education," said Maxam.

"We look for schools that have need. They need to have a supportive and cooperative community, a community that's going to stand behind a project and participate because they fund-raise part of the project," said Maxam. "They need to have good security. That's something we found out pretty quickly. There's so much poverty there, people don't think twice about stealing something that's worth anything. In order to put solar panels on a roof, you've got to be able to protect them."

The students and teachers at Emalindi were an unbelievable help", Maxam said. "What a wonderful school. This school was so involved every step of the way, very supportive of the project," he noted. "They fund-raised for 40% of the equipment. They fed the group of volunteers so that every day we were working they gave us lunch. They had teachers that worked with us, and students, too. Those people are the ones who become the maintenance people for the system."

Maxam gave Llorian and the other volunteers a crash course in electrical work before starting the project, then the group helped install junction boxes, run wiring, mount the solar panels on the roof, and install lights in the buildings. Where once emalindi was dark at night, now five classrooms, two dormitories, and the kitchen and dining area are brightly lit.

To show their appreciation, the students and faculty held an assembly, regaling the Jua volunteers with singing, dancing, and poetry.

"The poem was about solar electricity and about how they were going to be able to study better, and how happy the were about that," Maxam recalled.

Now that they're back in the States and back at their real jobs, Maxam and Llorian said they'll share their experience in Kenya with their Lakeland Copper Beech classes.

"It's interesting to present to the students how different life can be in other corners of the world and all the things they have around them that they take for granted," Llorian said. "When you show them pictures and tell them stories, really, it blows their minds."

"For me as a teacher, it's a chance to travel, to get to know other parts of the world," Maxam said. "Aid I think when kids see their teachers going to places like this and coming back with stories like this, it kind of inspires kids to want to see other parts of the world and broaden their own experience."





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Story Source: North County News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kenya; Service; NGOs; Solar Energy

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