Abstract: We believe that when children teach other children, children become the agents of needed change in the world. In collaboration with the non-profit organization Empower Playgrounds Inc. (EPI) and Saints Peter and Paul School in Umumbo, Nigeria, we plan to enhance educational opportunities and improve the quality of life for the students at Sts. Peter and Paul by providing renewable energy through electricity-generating playground equipment, LED lanterns and hands-on science kits designed and built by EPI. Through the EPI system we will give these students the tools they need to become peer educators and leaders in sustainability and renewable energy.
Empower Playgrounds Inc. and Equipment: Beginning as a Brigham Young University engineering department project, EPI has been an established 501 c3 since 2007 with permanent employees in the US and Ghana, and is sponsored by many manufacturers. Cargo-Link International is the official shipping partner of EPI, and has transported all EPI systems currently in use from the manufacturer in Pennsylvania to Accra, Ghana over the past 5 years. Since 2007, EPI has installed 30 electricity-producing playgrounds on its own, providing light for over 5000 students in Ghana. In 2012 EPI began to allow outside organizations to sponsor impoverished schools and help them receive EPI approval to become a member of the Partnership for Play program and purchase the EPI system at manufacturing cost. We have submitted a proposal to EPI and they have already agreed to partner with us, and have approved Sts. Peter and Paul to become a member of the Partnership for Play Program. Partnering with EPI for this project is necessary because the EPI system is not available on the open market; EPI’s partners subsidize its research, development and manufacturing. It consists of a merry-go-round generator and a 60 watt solar panel, hooked up to a charging station, which can charge up to four LED lanterns per day. Each lantern charge lasts for about 40 hours of bright light. Other small, common electronic devices can also be charged with this system. By sponsoring Sts. Peter and Paul School to receive this system, we will build upon EPI’s principles and expand its success, sustainability and impact beyond Ghana’s borders by bringing the first EPI system to Nigeria.
Objective of Project: To enhance the educational opportunities and improve the quality of life for students attending Sts. Peter and Paul School, within 8 weeks in Umumbo, Nigeria, we intend to: 1) Provide 40 transportable LED Lanterns so groups of students can share a light source and do homework in the evenings after the sun has set, preventing conflict between their education and their after-school chores and encouraging them to help one another learn. 2) Install a merry-go-round electricity generator and one 60 watt solar panel to supply sufficient electricity to recharge the LED lanterns. 3)Teach students about clean renewable energy through the electricity generating playground setup, LED lanterns and EPI hands-on science kits that include thermometers, measuring tapes, make-it-yourself solar cookers, magnets, compasses, solar cells and wires. This equipment will allow students to better grasp theoretical concepts of science. 4) Show the people of Umumbo how to build the solar cookers provided in the EPI science kits and use them to boil water to make it safe to drink. 5) Encourage a group of students to build their leadership skills by becoming fluent in science and sustainable energy production and help them create a presentation on these topics. 6) In the final week of the project, this group of peer educators will lead their school’s “Festival of Lights,” to celebrate and teach students, their parents and community members about the power of sunlight through the use of solar panels, the importance of clean renewable energy, and how light and clean water can be produced through the power of play.
Implementation and Timeline:
To accomplish the objectives described above, we will work with EPI to purchase and install the “Light Through Play” electricity generating system in Umumbo, Nigeria. After we applied on Sts. Peter and Paul’s behalf, EPI agreed to sell its system to Sts. Peter and Paul for the cost of production and recognize them as a member of the Partnership for Play program. An EPI country coordinator in Ghana will travel to Sts. Peter and Paul to oversee the successful installation of the EPI equipment, which is estimated to take four hours. We will contract Cargo-Link International to transport the EPI system in two pieces (one weighing 500 lbs and one weighing 300 lbs, and each measuring 40 cubic feet) from Philadelphia to Lagos, Nigeria, which will take approximately 60 days. Airplane tickets from Chicago, IL to Lagos, Nigeria will be booked so that we will arrive prior to the expected date of delivery of the EPI system by Cargo Link International and can get it through customs. We will design activities for the leadership retreat for student peer educators, and prepare a presentation to give to the school after the EPI system is installed, detailing the use and purpose of the EPI system, including science kit demonstrations, current energy production methods used around the world, and how the EPI system creates energy in a cleaner, more sustainable way, as well as why this is important.
Mid June-August 2013:
Week 1: We will fly to Nigeria, arriving in Lagos to meet the EPI system and one of our contacts in Lagos, Raph Onyeka, will arrange to have it transported to Umumbo using pick-up trucks. The first week after arrival in Umumbo will be spent installing the EPI system, and getting to know the teachers and students at Sts. Peter and Paul School while explaining what we will be doing in the coming weeks. We will provide all travel and accommodation expenses for EPI’s country coordinator in Ghana so they can come to install the EPI system at Sts. Peter and Paul. While the EPI system is being installed, we will help students and their teachers assemble the solar cookers from the science kits, distribute one to each household, and give a short demonstration of their use to the community, including how to boil and purify water to make it safe to drink. Weeks 2- 5: After the EPI system is installed, an all school assembly will be held and a presentation will be given explaining the purpose of the system, how it works and why it is important. After the presentation, interested students will be invited to volunteer to become peer educators and learn more about sustainable development. Students who volunteer will attend a weekend leadership retreat involving trust building activities and workshops on sustainability and developing leadership skills, with time for them to put together a presentation using what they learned from EPI, the workshops, recess, and, the science kits. Father Joseph will also help us divide students into groups to share an LED light for take-home study at night based on proximity of their homes, and choose a lantern group leader for each who will be responsible for the care of each lantern. He will ensure each student responsible for a lantern is taking proper care of it and recharging it as needed. They will be given instructions for the upkeep of the lanterns, and the care of them will be strongly emphasized by members of the school and community. Week 6- Based on feedback from students and professors, we will work with Sts. Peter and Paul to help figure out ways the science kits could be incorporated into the curriculum. Week 7-10: We will help Sts. Peter and Paul prepare and host the “Festival of Lights,” a celebration that focuses on teaching students, parents and community members about the power of sunlight, both as raw solar energy and through conversion into electricity and heat via solar panels, and how the power of play can produce clean light and water for a bright future. Our group of student peer educators will give their presentation to the entire community of Umumbo, and all Sts. Peter and Paul students will be invited to make artwork and perform dance and musical numbers for the festival. Food will be provided. This festival will give the students an opportunity to share their new energy playground equipment and what they have learned with their community. At the closing of the festival there will be a bonfire, and the LED lanterns will be used for lighting, while local musicians will be invited to provide music for all to dance and celebrate. The whole project process will be documented and presented to the Luther College community and the Sisters of Mercy convent with the hope that this documentary can be used as a tool in the future to provide further financial support for Sts. Peter and Paul and the project’s ongoing expenses.
Project Feasibility: Above all, the most important aspect of any peace project is that it corresponds with and helps fulfill the goals of those it is trying to help. We share the vision of EPI and Sts. Peter and Paul School: We desire to empower children, teaching them how to educate themselves as well as their peers for a more peaceful future. Successful transportation, food, housing, communication and other logistics essential to the smooth implementation of the project will be made possible through Sister Regina Mgbakor and Father Joseph Ezeoruonye in Umumbo, Nigeria. Sister Regina Mgbakor is a Nigerian native, member of the Immaculate Heart Convent, and a Sister of Mercy who has connections with Raph Onyeka and Father Joseph’s archdiocese of Onitsha, and is responsible for winning a grant to have the rainwater storage tank installed in Umumbo. She says Umumbo, although impoverished, is a peaceful, predominantly Christian community, free of religious and tribal conflict. Through our friendship with her, we have contacted Father Joseph and he has given his support of the installation of the EPI system. He is willing to take charge of the EPI system once our project is complete and oversee the maintenance of the equipment. He will contact Williams Emmanuel, a local electrician in the city of Onitsha who has experience with solar panel repair, whenever necessary to keep all equipment in proper working order. Sister Regina, Father Joseph, and the CEO of EPI, Chris Canon have all written letters expressing their support of this project. The head of the Luther College Environmental Studies Department, Professor Jon Jensen, has also reviewed our proposal and has agreed to act as an advisor during the planning process. In addition, Sister Regina has volunteered to accompany us to Umumbo for the duration of the project to provide support and connections. The EPI system is expected to last 10+ years. Each LED lantern is expected to last 5+ years and will cost about $50 to replace through EPI. The AGM storage battery is expected to last 3-5 years and will cost around $300 dollars to replace. EPI has committed to continue to provide support, repairing the EPI system whenever necessary as long as travel and accommodation expenses are provided, and continuing to sell replacement supplies at cost from Ghana.
Student Backgrounds: Amelia Kundel is a biology major, music minor, interested in science and education. She has previously helped with Natalino Guterres’ Project for Peace grant “Music for Peace,” acting as songwriter and choral teacher for the youths at Criancas Unidas in Timor Leste. Amelia is also close friends with Sr. Regina of the Sr. of Mercy Convent in Cedar Rapids, and has been a strong advocate for another Nigerian school, St. Timothy’s, since 2003, promoting awareness, fundraising and creating a Christmas cards exchange program through her high school. Calla Olson is a double major in music and biology, interested in sustainable development. A member of the Luther College sustainability department, she has worked on many projects relating to sustainable resource management at Luther College and Iowa State University. Melody Elele is a Nigerian native majoring in Economics who is passionate about giving back to her country, and will use her cultural experience to forge connections with the people of Umumbo. She is from the state of Anambra, in which Umumbo is located, has family there, and is familiar with the area. This project is exciting to all three of us because it allows us to utilize our individual passions for a common good, improve our skill sets, and, through empowering the students of Sts. Peter and Paul, empower ourselves.
Sustainability and Future Impact: Although it is unrealistic to think that great change is possible through one project, we believe that true peace-building is achieved by providing individuals with the tools and skills they need to empower themselves and others. This project is unique because it transforms the playground into a tool that teaches about science and produces clean energy, so that when students play, they can feel that they are still contributing to their community and are thus empowered. It enables students to provide their own energy source for studying at night, allowing them to take charge of their education. We hope we can spark an interest in the students to pursue science, a science that meets growing energy needs while preserving the health of the environment. With our project, peace will be fostered among the students because they will have to share a lantern light at night to do their homework, encouraging them to share ideas and teach each other concepts that were taught during school day. The sustainability of the project will be most vividly preserved through the minds that are touched and inspired. We hope that the professors at Sts. Peter and Paul will continue to use the science kits and that the peer educators weekend retreat and “Festival of Lights” will become an annual event, fostering peace and building community while allowing future students to present what they have learned, boosting their confidence in their leadership abilities. The extra expenses for this project will come from fundraising from local churches in the Decorah and Cedar Rapids area. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent already has a 501c3 fund set up to support Sister Regina’s efforts in Nigerian schools, and they have agreed to create a specific account for the maintenance and replacement of this equipment for this project. The documentary and photos from the project will be used after the project is complete to show our communities and churches the results of our efforts, and to serve as a tool for future fundraising for Sts. Peter and Paul, including supporting the ongoing replacement expenses of the EPI system. We are confident that Sts. Peter and Paul School is an excellent school to share the EPI system with because of the school’s high level of parent involvement and continued support from outside sources. Although Sts. Peter and Paul is already a community center in Umumbo, we are confident that the EPI system will transform Sts. Peter and Paul into a central place for learning in Umumbo that will light many children’s imaginations through the power of play.
Project Contributing Members: Mal Ge, Sister Julia Kepros, Sister Regina Mgbakor, Father Joseph Ezeoruonye (Director of Sts. Peter and Paul School), Father Remigius Ikeche (Accountant for the Archdiocese of Onitsha), Aida Dominguez, Williams Emanuel, Raph Onyeka