This is a guest blog post by Girl Up activist and ONE member, Delilah Harvey. The teen shares her experience installing solar panels during her high school spring break trip to LaFond, Haiti.
I woke up to the ferocious barking of dogs outside. I groaned and opened my eyes, which was practically the same as when they were closed – pitch black. I put my hand arm’s length away and gradually brought it closer to my face, at no point was my hand visible. I patted the air in front of me until I felt the wall and slowly guided myself to the bathroom. I could tell by the gape in the wall that I had reached my destination. Trying to get back into my bed, I felt engulfed by the darkness. Unlike any conventional fear I had felt before, I felt completely helpless.
LaFond is a small rural village about three hours northwest of Port au Prince, Haiti. Ten of my classmates and I had traveled here over spring break to install solar panels. My experience there helped me gain a unique understanding of the importance of electricity and a realization of how much it is taken for granted.
At 6:30 a.m. the next evening, our group gathered in a central tent, with one overhead light bulb powered by a generator (we had 30 minutes of power each day). All I could think of was the families living without any source of light in their homes and what they were doing at that moment.
And then I thought about what I would be doing back home at this moment, most likely sitting around a brightly lit dining table with my family. I would probably not be giving a second thought to the increasing darkness outside as an obstacle to my mother preparing dinner, or my sister reading before bed, or to myself, working on homework deadlines.
On the final night of our stay in LaFond, we visited some of the houses where we had installed solar panels. A mother we visited was busy sewing in her home at 9:30 p.m. Her complete joy at being able to welcome us and to work at night was evident, and inspiring. And what really struck me was just how involved the entire community was in the process. This was a team effort.
Throughout this journey, my classmates and I came to an unspoken consensus of our changed definition of service. We now understand that service is less about us alone enacting physical surface change, and more about the relationships one builds allowing change to occur side by side.
Through this process of change and understanding, the puzzle to our own personal identities and purposes have shifted, changed and acquired new pieces.
Now home, I find myself grappling with internal conflict – that of living in a society where values are tied with material possessions and reflecting back on my time in Haiti, where people place value on working together and building something everyone will benefit from.
Congress has a bill that could provide 50 million people in Africa with reliable electricity. Sign the petition now and let them know it’s time to electrify Africa.