Since arriving here in Malawi we have discovered we were very out of date on our understanding of the countries population. Rather than the 15.9million we understood it to be the new updated figure is 17million (neighbouring Zambia, 8 times in size has the same population) with only 1.5 million having access to electricity. It is for this very reason that one of SolarAid aims is to go where no one else goes so the millions of people living remotely can be introduced, educated and given the opportunity to live with the benefits of solar light. It is with this focus, that we have spent the last 3 days.
Our first stop was to a school (approx 2 hours from Lilongwe, mainly due to the dirt tracks) – where we were supposed to be having a very low key visit to meet with Sunny Moneys best Agent – Mr Mdokosa. However on arrival we were greeted by 200 beaming smiles and the most well behaved school children we have ever encountered. After meeting with the head teacher and teachers, we proceeded out onto the main grass area to spend time with the children, who had prepared poems and a song for us. Brave spent time educating the children about the benefits of the solar lights, reenforcing the message and hard work Mr Mdokosa had already done at the school – the reaping evidence was with two boys there and then buying their very own Pico lights!!
After our visit we went into the village to visit with the Teacher District Coordinator (TDC) William. He is in charge of 12 schools within the district and is of great importance and influence to both SolarAid and the schools Head Teachers. He was incredibly welcoming and insisted we proceed to his house so he could proudly showed us his lights!! A true ambassador sharing the good news of solar lights, so I think it is safe to say – he is for Sunny Money!!
From here Mr Mdokosa took us to the neighbouring village, where he lives, explaining and showing us some of the many businesses and enterprises he was involved in, from Sunny Money, to teaching, having his own video shop and preaching on a Sunday and many more things in-between. His genuineness, energy, warmth and smiles I suspect contribute heavily to his success and before we said our goodbyes to Mr Mdokosa, we were gifted with a short visit with his family and received their wonderful hospitality setting us up for our 3 hour drive south to our accommodation.
Today, the day began early as we proceeded to take the ‘remote’ to the next level having a 100km drive ahead of us, knowing that only half the journey was to be on tarmac (much of which is single track) and the other half being a very rough and dirty track. The lack of infrastructure makes many of these journeys incredibly hard and long – though Beth and I have never looked so tanned (sadly short lived)!
Our journey was worth it – we arrived in Mankanjira school where we met with Luka and Ivy, two of the Sunny Money team and the Head Teacher – Steve. Ivy is Sunny Money’s best and longest serving sales rep – now in charge of the largest region of Malawi, she attended today’s meeting to follow up with the head teachers in this district to take orders and distribute the PICO Solar Light. However in true african style, the meeting took place in a now vacant classroom come store room, storing sacks of cement. In the midst of the Head Teachers meeting, Ivy found herself opening her room up to an unexpected collection, making way for those traveling on the back of the lorry – coming and going with the sacks to load the lorry so they could carry on their journey. Despite this curve ball…. Ivy carried on professionally, successfully selling lights, answering questions and raising awareness of other products available in the range for the next follow up visit in a few weeks time. Even in the few meetings Ivy has had with these Head Teachers, trust and confidence exists and now anticipation awaits… as the introduction and education of the lights begins back in the schools.
Head Teachers are an invaluable vehicle due to the respect, trustworthiness and status they hold by in the community, as a result Sunny Money continues to expand and build their network and partnerships so as to make full use of the access, influence and platform Head Teachers can offer, bringing greater impact than Sunny Money could manage on their own.
Knowing the importance of sharing our last few days with you (with this blog only scratching the surface), I intially began by apologising for the delay in getting this post up, due to the lack of internet access…. however I came to the conclusion an apology shouldn’t be given on that basis. Beth and I had the privilege of visiting a small number of those who live a hard and challenging life, and being off line is the least of their worries.
Sunny Money through their incredible passion, work and partnerships are offering a lifeline of clean sustainable light to millions that live without electricity (and much more), it is with this heart that we share this little insight and we know you will understand why we have been off line.