The air was hot and dry as the team set off in their trusty Toyota, heading on a red dirt road to Masindi.
In the car was Tom, Regan the videographer, and GoodBulb’s partners in Uganda, Gando and Lawrence, with Ben at the wheel. From time to time, other visitors would join in for the ride. And yes, it was a 5-seater car.
“We just all crammed in there,” Tom recalls with a laugh. “And it was fun! The only hiccup that first day was that the belt broke!”
With the issue resolved, the team soon arrived at their first stop: a community in Masindi. From there they set up home base at a hotel for four nights, traveling each day to the neighboring farm villages.
None of these villages have electricity.
Tom described what it was like approaching the village in his journal:
At each village, the first thing we’d see were little garage shops, selling knick-knacks.
You’d see the men sitting in a group, drinking and playing cards.
As we drew closer, we would see hundreds of people waiting for us.
It didn’t matter if it was the hottest day — 95 degrees or higher — there were hundreds. Sometimes they had been waiting for hours.
Getting out of the car, the crowd would quickly turn into a party. People cheered, and started singing and dancing. All the children would run to stare and greet them. Some wanted to touch them — sometimes it was the first light-skinned person they had ever seen. Others fell back, shy and afraid. But everybody was always smiling.
“You felt like a celebrity,” Tom said.
Tom and the GoodBulb team quickly developed a routine to their visits. First, they were introduced by Gando and brought to a designated seating area.
“It reminded me of an old royal court,” Tom described.
From there, men and women from the village put on a performance. Sometimes it was singing and dancing, other times a drama; but always in their native tongue. Tom realized that the story often told in the performance was one of pain; how women are mistreated in the village, a ‘terror scene’ such as a house burning down, or a kidnapping. Sometimes the songs turned to dirge-like melodies, naming the different basic needs that are lacking in the community; food, water, safety, light.
When the performance was over, it was Tom’s turn to share his story. While the weight of what he couldn’t provide was sometimes crushing, here, he knew, was a moment to shed an ounce of hope.
And it all started with a light.
Taking one of the GoodBulb solar powered lanterns from their shipment boxes, Tom held it up for the community to see. Then, he shared the GoodBulb story; the core values that made up that foundation years ago, the very values that brought him there to that moment
“We believe in good savings. We believe in good education. We believe in good causes. The solar lanterns that we have brought here today, accomplish all three. These lanterns will save your homes from devastating fires.”
Cheers from the audience.
“They will save your eyes and your body from the smoke of kerosene.”
At this the audience jumped to their feet, cheering and clapping. The boxes were opened, and the solar lanterns passed around, shared with each family. Tom walked each person through how to set up the lanterns by blowing in air, and pressing the button. The response was immediate.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Tom said. “Each time someone pressed the button, the lantern would light up — and their face lit up, with it. There was laughing and shouting from everyone.”
In his journal, he wrote this: “Everyone is so joyful. There is a feeling of being One.”
With their new, sustainable and safe lights in hand, their new friends waved goodbye as Tom and Team GoodBulb piled back in the Toyota.
Then, they began again.