Three months later I set off to East Africa again where I stayed for six months. It was during this time that I was privileged enough to meet with a variety of teachers (primary and secondary). It quickly became clear that one of the most difficult obstacles for these teachers was a lack of access to electricity.
I headed back to the United States with this in mind and in August of 2011, Trayce Williams and I founded The Spark Foundation: Enlightening Educators around the World which functions as a DBA of the Koinonia Foundation. Our foundation works to provide solar powered lanterns to teachers throughout the developing world. The Spark Foundation is currently working in Rwanda, Kenya, and Haiti.
When Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, the Founder & Executive Director of The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, came to Kalamazoo College (where I am currently enrolled) and talked about his work in Uganda and his non-profit, I knew immediately that our organizations had the potential to collaborate in a meaningful and impactful way. I had access to top of the line solar lanterns and he had two schools in Uganda with teachers who would benefit tremendously from these solar lights, as the majority of them do not have access to electricity or cannot afford electricity.
Then there was the matter of money. I’ve found that in the world of non-profits there is never a shortage of passion, but nearly always a shortage of money. I came to Jackson and his Development Associate, Tashmica, with a plan. In order to raise the proper funds I would work with Michigan elementary schools. With their blessing, I met with Theresa Reagan, principal of Georgetown Elementary of Hudsonville Public School District, who was elated to volunteer her school to help fundraise.
After only two weeks, the students, teachers, and staff of Georgetown Elementary were able to raise $1,500! Needless to say I was blown away by the dedication and generosity of the school community. In the end, through online and mail donations, The Spark Foundation was able to raise $2,500 which was used to purchase, ship, and deliver solar powered lanterns to the Nyaka and Kutamba primary school in Uganda. Collaborating with the Nyaka community has been a pleasure and a privilege. I cannot wait to see what future projects lie ahead for both of our organizations.
P.S. Check out this album on Facebook to see the Nyaka Grannies accepting a little light!