“We were honored to spend time with her and teach her how to use her new gift,” Nancy said. “This was the first time we’d ever selected someone at random, and it probably won’t be the last.”
Women trek out into the bush to gather firewood used for light and cooking, often spending hours searching. With their new Watts of Love solar lights, they can spend less time gathering firewood because they won’t have to burn fires for light at night. As a result, they’ll also have less toxic soot in their homes.
The message of love, light and hope delivered by Watts of Love is one you can see and feel, and it needs no translation.
The faith of the people of Mozambique shone brightly throughout our visit. The community of mamas prayed together often, such as this moment where they gathered together to pray for the healing of an injured child.
Each village in the bush had a queen and a king, along with other elders. The queens were easily identified by the colorful cloth tied around their shoulders. With their help, we were able to work with about 100-120 villagers each day, distributing the lights and providing one on one training.
At Palma Residences, the first village WOL visited the team was inspired to go up to the door of a home and knock on the door. When this woman opened the door, WOL presented her with a solar light. The woman was shocked and overjoyed at the unexpected blessing.
John and Nancy Economou proudly stand next to one of the first Watts of Love solar light recipients in Mozambique.
The solar charge on the WOL light can last up to 100 hours on its lowest setting, and the USB port can charge small electronics like cell phones. Now, instead of traveling to a neighbor’s — sometimes hours away — to pay to charge their cell phone, Watts of Love solar light recipients save money they can use to feed their family. Some even start their own micro-business of charging cell phones for others.
Our Watts of Love team begin storing all of the lights to be distributed on the team bus.
Learning to use a WOL light was a hands-on process and included writing each new owner’s name on their new possession, further cementing the sense of ownership.
Just as learning how to turn a light on was a new concept to most of the recipients, many were unsure about having their photos taken at first. Once Jared explained that their photos would be used to tell the story of how the solar lights help people just like them and help raise money for future recipients, they warmed up to the camera.
Something as simple as switching on a light or plugging something into a USB port was a novel idea for most light recipients. Each person received an individual session with a Watts of Love team member so he or she could become familiar with their solar light and learn how to take care of it.
“We don’t just give them the lights and leave. We get to know them, and it gets very emotional,” John said. “We give them love, tell them they’re worthy and bring people up.”
Once people were selected to receive solar lights, the WOL team gathered them together to teach them about their new lights and the potential they have to change their lives.
After teaching each of the mamas how to use their new light, WOL teams of two went to each mama’s house to help them put up their new lights and meet their children.
The IRIS Global headquarters in Pemba is aptly named the Village of joy. The Watts of Love team is surrounded by joy and a group of the mamas who received WOL solar lights. Part of the ministry of IRIS Global is to offer widowed and abandoned women training, meals and ministry, and Watts of Love was honored to distribute solar lights to 90 of the mamas in the village.
The kitchen at IRIS Global’s Pemba headquarters feeds 2,000 kids per day. Without this program, these children would go hungry. According to the Millennium Project, every year, six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.
While in Pemba, the WOL team stayed at IRIS Global’s Mozambique base. Founded by Heidi and Rolland Baker, the Village of Joy includes a training center for women, several schools, a large kitchen, a medical center and other mission services.
Nancy and Heidi Baker pose with two of the village elders before the solar light distribution begins.
A dozen WOL team members made the trip to Mozambique, and it was the first mission trip for 5 of them. The Mozambique travelers included Ruth Cube (from Thailand), Kenny Elder, Daniel Gallagher, Nancy Economou, John Economou, Betsy Hurley, Candice Mishkin, Tim Thompson, Jared Gravati, Greg Martell, Katelin Neely and Lynn Eldridge.
The children had big smiles for the camera and loved the attention. Here, they surround Jared, who was usually behind the camera lens.
The gift of light is life changing for young and old. For children like this one in Mozambique, it means increased study time with a safe light source. The World Bank estimates that light increases a child’s daily study time by up to 78%.