As we Ecogeeks ogle our ever-expanding supply of fancy gadgets and even fancier chargers it’s hard to imagine a life without these lux comforts. How could I run 3 miles without my Ipod to distract me? Do you really expect me to write a blog post with a pencil? We get so wrapped up in our technology that we overlook the technological needs of the rest of the world. Isn’t it fortunate then that Freeplay Energy’s charitable wing the Freeplay Foundation attempts to bring communication and light to the 1.6 billion people in the world today without electricity? The Freeplay Foundation’s mission is to help vulnerable people transform their lives with “sustainable, self-sufficient and environmentally friendly technologies.”
The lack of access to energy is closely linked to poverty. Without the ability to turn on lights or communicate individuals and families are at the mercy of unseen weather systems, outbreaks of disease, and limited resources. The Freeplay Foundation’s website explains the problems of limited technology more clearly:
A farmer listens to the radio for news of the incoming cyclone, ready to spread the alarm to her neighbors.
A child, orphaned by conflict and caretaker of his younger brothers, is soothed by voices on the radio as they fall asleep at a refugee camp.
With safe, renewable lighting, a midwife assists a nighttime birth with no fear of fumes from hazardous kerosene or firewood.
With a bright LED light, a girl studies after sundown, when her long day of chores has finally come to an end.
Freeplay took on the challenge of bringing communication and education to billions by developing the Lifeline Radio. It’s charged by either a human powered crank or solar power and can last 24 hours on one charge. The radio connects people in remote villages to an information network which offers: classes, weather forecasts, political news, etc. The radio’s speakers allow up to 40 people to assemble and hear the programming at one time. Over 160,000 radios have been distributed since 2003 serving an estimated 6 million.
Perhaps the impact of Freeplay’s clean technologies can best be seen by the individual cases they discuss on their website. For example: the remote refugee camps of northeast Kenya are home to more than 100,000 Somali women who have fled their country after years of civil war. These women have had little or no education and face early or forced marriages, female genital mutilation and high levels of gender violence. Working with other humanitarian organizations Freeplay has distributed the Lifeline Radios to groups of women who gather together and listen to news and educational programs that affect their lives. The radios give these women freedom to communicate with the outside world, and start them on the road to self-empowerment.
Freeplay is currently developing a LED light, which will use the same wind up and solar powered charging technologies as the radio. This clean technology has the potential to assist billions of people by giving them extra time to work, find necessities, or study. To learn more visit www.freeplayfoundation.org.
written by gmoke, September 19, 2008
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