The Panasonic Group is working on the "LIGHT UP THE FUTURE" project to bring light to people in areas without electricity.
Last February, together with ADRA Japan, an international NGO working to improve the school environment for children in Zimbabwe, we donated 330 solar lanterns to Nyaminyami District, Kariba County, Mashonaland West Province, located in the northeast of Zimbabwe.

Now, about two months after the donation in February, what kind of environmental changes have come to the children of Zimbabwe? I would like to tell you about the situation of children that I have seen through ADRA JAPAN.

The two people who received the solar lanterns and agreed to be interviewed were Memento (15 years old) and Ryan (14 years old). Until now, Memento and Ryan have been unable to study at night due to the lack of electricity. The same goes for the two families, and because there is no electricity, most household chores such as cooking must be completed during daylight hours. Once it gets dark after sunset, the only thing you can rely on is the light from your cell phone. It's not really bright enough for the whole family to spend the night.

Memento and Ryan's family had been living in such an environment, but when the lanterns arrived, their lives changed dramatically. Now, they can study at night. And it's easier to prepare meals for the whole family. What's more, they no longer get attacked by snakes at night, and can now safely go to the bathroom.

While we were able to bring about these major environmental changes, there was one thing that really stuck with us. This means that children who used to feel helpless because they couldn't study even if they wanted to, now have bright hopes for their future.

Of course, the lanterns donated to Zimbabwe can be used by the families who donated them for purposes other than children's activities, such as studying and reading. However, all parents hope for a bright future for their children, and we at Panasonic sympathize with that feeling and decided to make this donation because we believe it is necessary to brighten the future of children. Memento and Ryan's parents also have strong feelings for children, and above all else, they use light for their children's future.

Memento and Ryan also came up with the idea that this lantern could be used by everyone. Memento and his older sisters and Ryan formed a night study group with friends from the neighborhood and began studying together under the lantern.

Although one lantern may not be very large, we hope that the light it brings will light up the hearts of more people, deepen the community, and lead to a better society. We aim to help children develop a bright future. We were also able to gain a new awareness of the various ways that Memento and Ryan are using lanterns.

Please take a look at the interview with Memento and Ryan.

Interview with MEMENTO

Memento , age 15, is a girl in Form 2 at Negande Secondary School. She resides in Village Kanogocheka 7km from Negande. She obtained her primary education at Malembeja Primary School which is one of the three schools being supported by ADRA Japan in Nyaminyami district.

Memento wakes up early to walk 7km to her school to attend classes on time and walks the same distance on her way back home after school. By the time she gets home, it is already late afternoon. When she arrives, together with her elder sisters, they get on to do their household chores, leaving very little or no time for her to study. Without alternative lighting, she and her sisters must make sure that they cook the evening meal and eat before dark. Thereafter, everyone goes to their rooms to sleep and the homestead goes quiet.

If I had some source of light, I would love to use that time to study” Mementoused to say.

She lives in a household of nine people. One of her younger siblings is attending school at Malembeja Primary School and was issued with a Sunking solar light by ADRA .Yet, the light was not enough to help all children study. Memento shares the Panasonic solar lantern with her older sisters.

Memento says “It is not easy to cook using light from my father’s cellphone to illuminate the kitchen. We sometimes resort to lighting by burning grass when we prepare meals. It is extremely hard as neither the light from the cellphone nor the light from burning grass are bright enough...

She expresses this to show her helpless situation when it comes to needing light for studies because there was no alternative source of light to spare for her and her elder sisters.

Given the Panasonic solar lantern, Memento is very grateful for it. (She says that the light came at a very appropriate time because) she and her sisters are making effective use of it. Her sisters will be sitting for O’ Level examinations this year and they too are very grateful for the lantern.

Memento also expresses that at home, the light has been very useful for all family members, but she is most grateful that the light has provided her with an extension of study time. She did not have any opportunity to study at night but is now able to do that. She also says that it is also now easy for her and her sisters to prepare meals comfortably (knowing that there is ample time to study.)

We also met with Memento’s Elder sister Pertunia who warmly expressed her gratitude to Panasonic Holdings Corporation and ADRA for providing them with the solar lantern. Pertunia is sitting for exams this year and she says to us, “it is not only Memento who is benefiting but us as well.” (She said they would make sure that the light is always safe and help Memento with her studies too.)

Comments from Memento’s parents.

Memento’s father says, “The solar lanterns are very helpful to the children who received them and their families. I was always sorry for my children and would see their struggle as they try to study before sunset. Eventually they gave up since they also needed to make sure that most of the household chores are catered for before dark. That left no time for them to study at home.”

With Memento’s solar lantern, we are very grateful because it also allows us to charge our phones and see clearly in the dark. The lights are also very strong and durable. What is left for us as parents is to encourage them to make use of the light and study hard. Thank you so much.”

Interview with RYAN

Ryan is a 14-year-old boy from Mabbwadu village under Chief Negande in ward 5. He is a Form 1 student at Negande Secondary School. Born in a family of five, Ryan lives with his mom and dad together with his two sisters Sharmaine and Sherill. Sherill is a newly born girl. Their homestead is 500m from his school.

We visited Ryan at his home in the company of Siabasimbi ,the village head for Mabbwadu village. On arrival at the homestead, we were welcomed by his mother Rutendo who told us that Ryan was at a nearby playfield with his friends playing football. She then called out to him, and he immediately came to meet with us.

We spoke to Ryan, and this is what he told us.

“I love to study at home after school with the Panasonic solar lantern. (He says studying helps him to keep up with the demands of schoolwork, but he has been facing challenges. Study time is not enough.) After school, I help my mom to do some household chores since I am the eldest of the children at home. By the end of the day, I am left with very little time to study using natural light from the sun.

Before I received this lantern, I had to rely on my mother’s cellphone for lighting because we have no other source of light However, because she also needs the light on her cellphone for her housework, she only allows me to use it for less than an hour. I also have to sleep early so I can do my household chores in the morning.”

At home, they rely on 2 cellphones for lighting. One is his father’s phone, and it is primarily for communication. Unfortunately, for Ryan, those phones are used by his parents for lighting while conducting other chores like cooking and taking care of Ryan’s siblings who are still very young and need proper lighting for the general care at night. Ryan is left without any light to use at night, making it difficult for him to study and even to access essentials like the toilet safely.

Without enough lighting, Ryan’s study time at home is limited and never enough for someone who is well motivated to improve his school grades.

When asked about how he is using the Panasonic Solar Lantern, he answered.

In ChiTonga – “Ndilakondwa kuba a lampe eli nkambo lyawubya buponi. Ngandajana chindi cheelede chakubala mpawo lilagwasya boonse bantu bempuli. Lilamunika kabotu loko zigwasya muntu woonse. Ngandasobana abanike bangu banini nkatutayowi nzoka azimwi ziyosya.”

Translated to English - “I am happy with the light, and it has made my life easier. Now I have enough time to study, and it is very helpful not only to me but to my family as well. It is so bright that everyone benefits from it. When I play with my little sisters, with the light, I can make sure they are safe from snakes. I can also go to toilet safely and feel safe from any dangers.”