Village after village, Tom and his team were welcomed.
Village after village, they shared their story, listened to the story of the community, and shared the new solar lanterns.
Sometimes, they would do three distributions in a day, Tom said. And when it was time to move to the next village, they piled in the Toyota and hit the beautiful red dirt roads.
While each day followed a pattern, there was variety; sometimes they shared meals with the elders — chicken, bananas, sticky dough, various meats and fruits (always eaten with your hands, of course, Tom said.)
Sometimes they worked through lunch, dizzy from heat and exhaustion. And yet each time, Tom and his team were deeply moved by the happiness radiating from the men, women and kids as they presented the new solar lanterns.
In between distributions, the team made an effort to return to some of the villages, checking in on how the lanterns were working.
Here, Tom said, is where he felt renewed confidence that the lanterns were making a real impact
Kids at school swung their lanterns giggling, sharing that now they can read after the sun goes down
They saw lanterns hanging in people’s homes and in gathering spaces.
One older man they encountered had his lantern safely tucked under his arm all day long.
“I don’t want to put it down,” he shared with them, whispering. “I’m afraid somebody might steal it!”
These moments are what pushed Tom and his team through the exhaustion, through the crammed Toyota rides, through the moments of great joy — and the moments of grief, too. Because at the end of the day, Tom knew many of the hardships of the villages still remained. That was a hard reality to grasp. Sometimes, Tom shared, he found himself crying at the end of the day, overwhelmed.
“They would share their problems, their pain, and they would look at me. Praying that I could help them. That I would find a way,” he said. “It was a lot to take in.”
And yet, for an afternoon, there was something that he could do — something positive; something that would make a change. He saw it in the eyes of the schoolchildren, when they saw the lantern light up for the first time.
He saw it in the rejoicing, the singing, and the smiles of the men and women as they replaced their old kerosene lanterns with new solar ones.
“You can see the lanterns will make a difference,” Tom said. “You can see it had an impact on their lives.”
Fifteen days of travel later, Tom was back in Kampala with a journal full of notes and his heart raw with emotion. Gando suggested a trip to the zoo, a tour of the city. Tom politely declined.
“My friends, I’m sorry,” he said. “I have to rest.”
He rented a hotel room with a resolve to lay in bed for the day and process. That evening, he headed to a nearby market for dinner. He ordered the fish, of course. As he finished his last meal of his first trip to Uganda, he reflected on the past days. What did it mean for GoodBulb? What was he bringing home?
That night, he wrote down some final thoughts in his journal.
When I think back to the beginning idea for GoodBulb… we only had statistics about what kerosene does, about how many people live without light. I’d only seen it on paper. Being here, it’s real.
Tom paused. This was what, most of all, would stay with him forever. That these statistics are more than just numbers. These are men he shook hands with, women he laughed with, children he danced with. These are his friends
It was important to see in person that what we’re doing is going to make a difference. That’s what we’re coming home with — I am now confident, and I have SEEN, that what we are doing IS making a difference.
Yes, we realize these people need more. But our lanterns are impacting a small part of their lives. And that is a start.
You made this story happen. Each time you purchase a GoodBulb, you are supporting our mission to bring light to families without electricity around the world. With GoodBulb, you have the opportunity to buy a light, and be a light.
The need is real. While we were able to visit 11 villages and distribute over 2,000 lanterns on our journey in Uganda, there are still hundreds more families and communities around the world in need of better lighting solutions. In fact, Gando has already contacted GoodBulb for future opportunities.
@goodbulbtom he may not be the best dancer but he sure can chew that gum!
Ben may be the greatest driver to ever navigate these gorgeous red roads.