Light is so easily taken for granted. However, all it takes is a moment in which you are surrounded by darkness to realize how crucial light is. It makes us feel safer, especially if we are walking by ourselves or home alone. Even more so if you’re a young girl or a woman. Electricity allows you to be a part of modern times. It allows access to education, technology, medicine and so many luxuries we consider everyday basics.
In the US, electricity is a given. We plug in at all times. We work whenever we want to. Our kids can do homework even if the sun has set. We freeze in our air-conditioned offices and shopping malls in the summer. Some of us even carry extra battery packs to ward off the fear of being disconnected for a while. We write about the challenges of leading an ultraconnected life. These are first world problems, indeed.
I grew up in Chile in the 80’s. My parents decided to move there when I was 7. It was a very different country from the modern Chile people see today. Even though we had electricity, sometimes the power would go out. We always had candles and flashlights handy. Sometimes the power went out due to the limited infrastructure available at the time, other times it was due to the occassional earthquake, while others it was due to terrorist attacks trying to overthrow the military regime. I would finish my homework with the help of a candle and then play with the melted wax. My mom would double check that all candles were put out before we went to bed but I would get scared. At times she would give in and leave a candle in a special container (called palmaria) out of my reach so it would shine brightly and chase my fears away.That’s when I realized how bright the candlelight can shine in the darkness. I would watch that flame entranced, because it was light in its purest form. I appreciated the glow that made me feel safe. Those nights in Santiago when there was an “apagón” (a power failure) I also saw more stars than ever. But I always awaited the moment in which the power would be back.
Today I know millions of children and adults have to wait for the sun to rise to be able to have light in their lives. This hinders their safety, their education, their healthcare, and the access to so many things we take for granted.
Millions still have no access to electricity
When I learned how many still have no access to electricity in Africa, I had to do something. The first step was joining the #LightForLight #ElectrifyAfrica campaign with ONE and sharing in this post a few of my favorite pictures showing how beautiful light can be. One of them, the one of my daughter looking at a candle, reminds me of myself as a young girl.
It’s so easy to pretend it’s too far away or that there’s nothing we can do, yet it’s impossible for me to ignore the fact that millions can’t lead safer lives. Even worse: lack of access to electricity can trap millions of people in extreme poverty.
- 7 out of 10 people living in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity.
- 30% of health centers and over a third of primary schools in Africa have to function with no electricity at all.
- 8 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa heart their homes and cook food using open fires. Inhalation of the smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels results in over four million deaths per year, mainly among women and children. More deaths than from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
Want to help or share light? Share this post, or even better, share your own favorite light-filled image on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and tag it #ElectrifyAfrica and #LightforLight. Help even more by adding the link to the petition: http://bit.ly/1GStA0E
Make sure to check out tomorrow my friend Asha Dornfest’s light-filled post.