“Daddy, will you turn the light on?”
This is our nightly ritual. He is more than capable of turning the light on for himself, but his last chore before bedtime involves a trip to the trashcan outside and his hands are often full. Still, there is the glow from streetlamps and the soft wish of starlight, any of which would surely guide his way around the corner and back. But the light means more than that: The light provides safety and direction. The light allows for the best possible setting to ensure that his job is done correctly. And the light implies that I will be there, waiting on his return, and watching the impossible bend of his stretching shadow.
It is a thing we take for granted. Our nights may be spent in darkness by choice—sitting around campfires, waxing and waning with the moods of the moon, but most nights we are bathed in brightness, basking beneath it as his brother lists again the many complaints against another page of homework, never once claiming that a lack of light would keep him from it.
Even in our darkest hour we keep a slight beacon of hope down the hallway, a blue canary in the outlet by the light switch, the singsong earworm that pulls small, bare feet toward the sweet seat of relief and the constant splash of sleep on tile.
I turn the light on because I can, and the night is drawn accordingly.
Due to an overwhelming lack of electricity many people on the continent of Africa are literally powerless, and it is worse than it sounds:
- 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 . . . that means that 90 million students and 255 million patients are left being educated and receiving health care from places that have no power. Of refrigerators used in health clinics in Africa, 60% have unreliable electricity, compromising the safe storage of vaccines and medicines. Hospitals are sometimes forced to operate with no lighting or power for equipment, putting people’s lives at serious risk. Children without domestic lighting struggle to do their homework in the evening, which can hold back their education and ability to fulfill their potential.
- 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.
- Lack of safety: Without streetlights, telephones, or other means of communication, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to violence after dark.
- Stifled economic growth: According to survey data of African businesses, reliable energy access is a bigger concern than corruption, lack of access to capital, or sufficiently trained labor.
Right now, there is a bipartisan bill in the House that can change this—a bill that would help Africa bring power to 50 million people for the first time. You can add your voice to those calling upon Congress to #ElectrifyAfrica. Please sign and share the petition:
ONE’s #LightforLight Blog Relay will run the entire month of July. Below you will find some pretty amazing photos and prose from those that have already posted:
- Electrify Africa by Karen Walrond
- Turn on the Lights by Laurie White
- There is a Light by Heather Barmore
- Light for Light by Tracey Clark
- Light is Life by Elizabeth Atalay
- Beneath the Light of Their Bedroom Lamp by Rebecca Woolf
- Light for Light + An Easy and Important Way YOU Can Help Right Now to Electrify Africa by Jane Maynard
Heather Armstrong is the next one to step into the light. Read her story on Dooce.
Photos by W. Honea
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.