Two weeks in India with a flashlight

By | March 16th, 2011 | No Comments

Women of the Ranai village scope out their new solar-powered flashlights.

In this post, Ximena Prugue recaps her two-week trip with fellow MDC student Stephany Torres to India to introduce solar-powered lighting to India’s rural poor. Check out our Feb. 16 post for more background on the Giving The Green Light project.

After months of planning, vaccinations, visa applications, and a series of stresses, it finally hit me: We’re in India. Staring out the window of our taxi in the early morning, I fought the urge to scream and stomp my feet like an excited child. In the streets, there was chaos: reckless drivers, loud horns, suicidal pedestrians, women in bright saris, hand-painted buses, motorcycles, bicyclists, abandoned cows, water buffalos, auto rickshaws, tiny sedans, and beautifully painted trucks, all set against the dusty streets of India.

Stephany and I spent a lot of time riding in the car through Delhi. We saw slums that looked like small villages crammed into the vacant spaces of the city. Even the smallest nooks were occupied by a vendor stand, and laundry hung from the most unlikely places.

On the first day, we bought our oh-so-cheap wardrobe so we would fit in a little better. We spent the next three days visiting the Lotus temple, Humayan’s tomb, Lodhi Gardens, Qutb Minar, and numerous other landmarks. On Sunday, we drove three bumpy hours to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, which were both breathtaking. The Taj Mahal was built as an act of love, an incomprehensible notion in a world where chivalry is pretty much dead.

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Miamians bound for India with a solar torch

By | February 16th, 2011 | 1 Comment
Giving The Green Light

Giving The Green Light aims to stop kids like this from smoking two packs a day (in effect).

On Feb. 23, Ximena Prugue and Stephany Torres will fly to India on a mission to shed solar light on a rural village in Madhya Pradesh called Jhabua. As in many Indian villages, Jhabua’s villagers use kerosene lamps to light their homes, which means they breathe in disease-causing fumes all day long. Prugue and Torres, both Miami-Dade College students, hope to implement cheap solar-powered lighting in the village as part of their Giving the Green Light project. Funded in part by a $3,500 Clinton Global Initiative grant, the non-profit aims to “shine a light on energy poverty in India” by distributing 10,000 solar-powered flashlights to the country’s rural areas by June 2011.

I spoke to Prugue earlier today about the shocking deadliness of kerosene and her emotions as she got ready to embark on a daunting mission: introducing solar energy to rural India, the world’s most energy-impoverished nation, at the age of 20.

First of all, what is energy poverty, and why are kerosene lamps so bad?

XP: Energy poverty is the lack of access to electricity, or having no access whatsoever. So you rely on fossil fuels such as kerosene. The lamps release sulfur and nitrogen oxide, which are directly linked to lung cancer, eye infections, pneumonia, and chronic lung disease. Spending five to six hours in the room with a kerosene lamp is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. So it’s about 40 cigarettes that you’re smoking because it’s not in a well-ventilated area. That’s why two-thirds of lung cancer victims are non-smokers.

The lamps also cause about 300,000 fires per year. You walk by and knock it over, and everything goes up in flames very easily.

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