By LANESSA MURPHY-SPAGNUOLO
News & Journal Staff Writer
Everyone has experienced a few days, maybe a week, without electricity. Face it, who doesn’t automatically reach for that light switch when you walk into the bathroom in the middle of the night? But picture this. Total darkness when the sun sets. No light switch – no electric. No flashlight. You light a little kerosene lamp that emits horrendous fumes that sits on your table – one of the few pieces of furniture in your tiny hut. If you’re lucky, you eat dinner. Your children pull out their school materials, if there is even a school in the area, and strain their young eyes to study. And that’s your night…
That is the way of life for people around the world, in fact, 1.2 billion, to be exact.They have no clean water to drink or cook with, no proper lighting, barely the clothes on their backs. But one local non-profit organization is trying to make a difference in those lives. New Vision Renewable Energy, located in Barbour County, is doing what they can to change that.
The organization’s President/CEO, Ruston Seaman, his daughter Leah, and a volunteer who has worked very closely with the organization over the years, Lauren Norris, will be traveling to Kenya in mid-July to deliver 65 of the organization’s handmade solar powered lights.
While in Kenya, the threesome will be visiting two locations not far for the country’s capitol of Nairobi.
Their first stop will be at the St. Barnabas Yogo Anglican Church in Ahero, Kenya. New Vision is partnering with the Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and a member from this Pennsylvania church is originally from Kenya. The church has invited New Vision to join them in working with the Anglican church by drilling a new water well as well as working with a local school.
While there, Ruston, a pastor himself, has been charged to help train some of the rural pastors there, as many of them don’t have much more than a seventh grade education.
Their second stop will be at the Kisingo Girls Center in eastern Kenya. The school, founded bypastor Leonard Wambua and wife Dorcas, helps prevent young girls within the region from becoming victims of mutilation and child brides. In the area, the youth can go to primary school, but once they finish primary school, their fate is determined by a test of knowledge. If they pass the test, they are permitted to go on to a secondary school and graduate; if not, they are married off prematurely.
Pastor Wambua is the bishop of the Eagle Rise Christian Church, a network of churches in the region. His churches look out for these at-risk girls. The school takes them in, provides them with a quality education, healthcare, and the tools they need to succeed so they can pass the test and avoid the dangers no one should have to face. Right now, the school has about 50 pupils.
The school has built a new facility within the last couple of years. Presently, they are building a brick safety wall around the school to keep out unwanted visitors. Seaman plans to help with the construction while they are down there as well as deliver the solar powered lights.
“We have the privilege of partnering with this group,” Ruston says. “We are going to take our lights, and our goal is to give these lights to the girls there so they can see at night, and when they return to their villages eventually, they can pass them along to those without electricity.”
Pastor Leonard Wambua says he is appreciative of the help New Vision has provided to the school.
“We look forward to spending time with Ruston at the Eaglerise Girls Centre and school. Pastor Ruston with his two organizations – the People’s Chapel and New Vision – have remained faithful partners and mentors to my wife and me. Our center has enjoyed his moral, financial and material support since the groundbreaking to this stage when orphaned and vulnerable girls are receiving shelter, food, education and psychosocial support. The New Vision solar lights have enabled the girls to carry out studies at night. We pray and wish Ruston and his team safe journey to Kenya.”
As mentioned earlier, Ruston’s daughter Leah and volunteer Lauren Norris will be on the trip as well. Leah, who has grown up with her father’s passion for the work in the mission field, is becoming very acquainted with the work herself. This is Leah’s third mission trip, with the most recent being to Haiti in November. Leah is only 17 years old and is about to go into her senior year at Philip Barbour High School. She gave up a trip to Europe with her school this summer to do work in Kenya. While in Kenya, she plans to help wherever she is needed as well as photograph the trip.
“We are soexcited to be traveling so far to spread God’s word,” Leah expresses. “To Him be the glory for allowing this to happen. I’m most looking forward to meeting the people, experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking in as much of the beautiful continent as possible! Please pray for safety for every member of the trip!”
Lauren Norris is a sixth year college student at WVU studying to be a doctor. Lauren has been involved with New Vision since the organization’s birth in 2009.
“Lauren is studying to be a doctor and raised her own funds to go help people in these two rural villages who have marginal health care options,” Ruston comments.
New Vision Renewable Energy has been responsible for producing and distributing over 3,700 handmade solar lights in more than 30 countries around the world. The organization began in a Sunday School class at the church where Ruston pastors, People’s Chapel, a small independent Methodist church in an impoverished community called Chestnut Ridge just above Philippi. The Sunday School class evolved into what’s now Monday night ‘Green Team’ where members of the church and community, as well as local youth, gather to construct these solar lights, made of coroplast boards, LED light strips, a lithium-ion battery, and a solar panel. With the help of the 3M Company, a partner, a waterproof case allows the lights to be hung or stood with ease. With the leadership of Serbian scientist John Prusa, the team works diligently to light the world. Since the beginning, there have been multiple versions of the light produced, and with research, they continue to perfect them. In fact, their first solar panel was made from a recycled shower door.
This is the third trip to Kenya New Vision has made in the last five years. On the last one in 2013, New Vision sent about 300 lights to KiberaSlum in Nairobi, where more than one million people live within one square mile with no electricity.
By having these lights, families don’t have to strain their eyes to see at night; they can see where they are going at night and are able to keep deadly predators like snakes out of their dark huts. There are also fewer reparatory-related deaths from daily inhaling toxic fumes let off from small kerosene lanterns and wood and charcoal smoke – which are responsible for 40 percent of Kenya’s childhood deaths.
The team will leave on July 16 and return July 30. If you would like to help their efforts by sponsoring a light or a brick for the Kisingo Girls Center’s wall, contact Ruston at 304-457-2971.