The pandemic has affected the world broadly and in different ways – GDL members have had to cancel projects, put them on hold or reorganise them for the time being. In order to ensure that the work of GDL members can continue, especially in civil society organisations that support vulnerable groups or other groups in need, the GDL has promoted projects through the Solidarity Fund. What has become of it, who has taken part in it and how has it helped?
This is the second article of our Solidarity Fund blog series where we will publish reports at irregular intervals on the blog. You can also take look at the first entry where Camila Comide shares her experiences at the Gender Alliance and illustrates why gender is way more than just women’s rights.
Inspired by the Solidarity Driven Call, GDL member Benon Kayemba launched a solar light project to improve security and provide lighting for children affected by the COVID lockdown in his home village of Buzzi in Uganda.
When I first saw the Solidarity Driven Call, I got the idea to set up roadside lamps alongside the access road to my residence in the small village of Buzzi in Wakiso District, Uganda. And so, the solar light project was born. Its primary purpose was to provide reliable lighting at night in a densely-populated neighbourhood to improve security for the children in the community affected by the pandemic restrictions.
However, the initial planning suffered a few setbacks at first. Firstly, I wanted to install ten lights, but we installed four lights instead since other costs such as labour reduced the planned number of lights. Secondly, I was needed to construct a community access road, using marram and bitumen which on the one hand drained my resources but in the end led to improved hygiene in the area.
The solar light project was part of the larger project I undertook, which included access to tarmac roads, perimeter walls and solar lights to improve visibility at night, beauty, cleanliness, and neighbourhood security. Finally, I was able to achieve all these goals and to significantly improve livelihood for the community – even though we only covered a small distance.
Because of the lights, the road users who used to urinate and soil the place at night are no longer doing the same, creating a clean environment. One significant improvement to the situation beforehand is that when national power is interrupted, which happens frequently, this place remains illuminated at night. The children from within the community can now even use it as a playground at night.
Throughout the project, I experienced excellent teamwork because it was funded and implemented even in my absence. I left Uganda in October 2020, and by the time I returned in April 2021, the project was complete with good feedback from residents.
Without the GDL Solidarity Fund, direct contributions from my fellow members and the team spirit I experienced, I would not have been able to implement this project. It helped me to physically connect with my fellow member Firmin Kami Adjahossou, who graciously visited my home in Buzzi, Uganda. This was a very great honour for me. I also connected with my fellow GDL Members Blair Glencorse and Edna Martinez as well as the GDL Secretariat. All these are valuable contacts to me.
The main challenge, however, relates to the poor and costly internet in some of our countries. The internet is too slow and too costly. This issue of cost, poor connectivity and lack of transparency in how the telecom providers charge their users is a major challenge to networking in Africa today.
Since our first phase, we have received appeals for support from the rest of the neighbourhood. The key challenges to the project are twofold: the need to first improve the community access street before installing the roadside solar lumps and then protect the solar lumps from vandalism.
The Solidarity Driven Call came at the right time. It opened my eyes to supporting my community. I never even planned to do this project in the first place, but when I saw the Call in July 2020, I got the idea to improve the street project. I’m now looking forward to more support for phase two of the project, which is improving the community access street from the main Entebbe Road to Buzzi trading centre over a distance of one kilometre. This street is impassable during rainy seasons. It would require levelling, marram soil, culverts, stones, bitumen and solar street lights. Every day, it is used by over 500 pedestrians and children going to school.
Providing services that matter in people’s lives is the greatest source of motivation for a human being. I will continue to do just that.
Benon Kayemba is a Ugandan diplomat with expertise in the fields of foreign and economic affairs, public administration, integration and partnerships as well as regional matters.
Published on July 7, 2021.