This post was written new SVRG team member Natasha, on her first day on site in the communities in Tanzania:
We arrived at the Ormoti site, to scenes of Maasai men sat around, wrapped in their traditional cloth. The solar array installed by Bernie, Anna and Arran previously was way bigger than I’d imagined, with 5 arrays of panels, each 16 panels long and 2 panels high, inside a big fenced enclosure. There were overgrown weeds below and a massive bees nest had appeared in a hole in the ground in one corner right next to the solar array (note to self, remind the operators they need to keep a hold on the wildlife or it’ll start affecting the installation’s performance!). A huge cement water tank had massive flocks of bees drinking from the cracks where water leaked through, a rare luxury for them in the Tanzanian dry season. A traditional mud/wood hut stood by the solar enclosure, where the security guard for the solar panels lives. All the electronics, controllers and a tiny shop were housed in a small cement building.
We then found out that the village energy committee (set up by Smart Villages to look after the solar panels and decide what would happen with the energy produced) had come out from their neighbouring Maasai communities specially to see us. They sang us a traditional song and called us up in turn to thank us for the difference the solar powered water pump had made to their lives, reliably providing clean, safe, affordable water for the past 6 months. They gave myself and Zoe a Maasai cloak, Arran a necklace, and Bernie and Anna received ‘blinged-up’ cloaks with glittery tassels and their names sewn on (or a close-enough, cute attempt at their names: Ben and Ana), complete with customised beaded bracelets with their names (this time, spelled Benny and Ana).
It was an incredibly sweet welcome to Tanzania, and to the communities with which we work, reminding us of the real difference we are making to the lives of these community members.