Lighting for Literacy

Lighting for Literacy, Colonet, Baja California 2017

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“The greatest Christian virtue is doing, the least is talking”             John Wesley

I HAVE SELDOM BEEN so rewarded for being a Methodist as on my fourth trip to Colonet, Baja California to help build the 39th and 40th small houses there; and to interpret for a Lighting For Literacy (LFL) project, where middle school science teachers and students lighted up the lives and nights of eight families in Ejido Punta Colonet. The students had been enrolled in STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), inspired by their science teachers, to put together solar panel powered lighting systems and to actually go to install them.

About 1.5 billion people (20 percent of the world’s population) must resort to some sort of carbon based fuel for night lighting; it is unhealthy, contributes to the CO2 burden, and is a significant fire hazard around flimsy remote structures. Otherwise they have no light after the sun sets. The cats at Los Gatos Methodist Church and Rotary International (RI) know LFL well, having witnessed it’s lightening fast 60 day gestation and assisted its birth.  The very first LFL solar lighting system installation was actually in Colonet, Baja California in 2013. It was developed one afternoon at a fast food restaurant by two members of the Methodist Church; one was Doug McNeal, also a Rotarian, who promoted support by the local Rotary. Already, affiliated programs reach more than eight continents, introducing STEM and LFL to more than 1,200 middle school teachers and their students who are at an age where inner places and lives can be lighted up in the process of lighting up remote places. Kevin Kinsella, who was also at Colonet this April, is an inspired and enlightening science teacher with LFL.

I felt enlightened, as well. The photographs below reveal the depth of our experience more clearly than words. They also speak of the nature and the power of Family; in this case, families who keep animals in, and desert varmints like coyotes out by fashioning close-spaced fences from brittle, dead stalks of cactus plants, wire and woven plastic waste; who carve out a place in the desert to  imagine a house – a home – into existence, though often largely made of trash. That’s something only families like those pictured below, can do.

As to my own family, I would have never gone to Colonet without following my daughter, Amy, who coordinated the complex project involving two countries, more than 40 people, and the finances involved; or John my son in law; and my son, Fred, a builder who hauled his tools and powerplant 3,600 miles round trip; and Tom, another builder from the South Bay who brought tools and material to the sites; or Ivan a local builder; or Antonio, a local pastor; or the many other volunteers and donors, the glue that held it all together.

After each solar lighting installation, instructions are given. The switch is turned on by one of the children. The student who put together the unit signs it and makes the final point by giving each child a set of age appropriate Spanish books. We take a  group photograph. Adios is then the only perfect single word speech.

These live links  tell about LFL better than I:

LGRI Rotary

LFL

 LFL Ivory Coast

 

The photographs  below and speak more clearly than words, and may encourage the reader to consider the possibility of LFL:

Doug McNeil

 Kevin Kinsella

First job of every morning  putting together two  units  for two houses. I couldn’t see how it was done, but these people did. A cell phone charger  pug is included.

The plastic bag holds mounting brackets and connectors. Note  all the wires, and the name of the student on the lid.

The rechargeable battery goes in the box too. Simple, no? Yeah, Right!

Jessica

Tom in a moment of silent, serious concentration. He is a monk in the skin of a grizzly.

Below is a wash-house. Behind is a fenced garden and unseen in the distance is a small mountain range where 10000 ft high peaks pull water from moist sea air in winter, providing water for this productive sun drenched agricultural region.

A fence perfectly representing the environment. The stakes are dried up spikes of cactus plants. They are strung along barb wire wrapped in salvaged black plastic bags.

Below are dried roots of the same cactus- Maguey- dug up from the sullen and reticent gravelly soil at considerable effort, to serve for cooking.

Alejandro cleaning the spines from Prickly Pear cactus leaves for very common vegetable dish, nopales,   He gave us a one week old dried rattlesnake which he advised us to let dry more, then grind up, and use with any food…like re fried beans and ground rattlesnake.  Cascabel con frijoles refritos.

I fell under the spell of this woman. She was a migrant farm worker from Chiapas, not speaking any Spanish; met  and married. Their 15 year old son  son works for a builder and did much of the construction;  15 years is adult at times. (During WWII my dad worked at a copper mine in Chihuahua. When I was 10 my he took me to El Paso and put me on a troop train with $5. I got to  Northern CA  with some help from the soldiers. Like children in Colonet, we were old when young then.  From this distance that doesn’t seem a bad thing)

I can’t  pronounce or recall  her name but will never forget her.  In this photo Antonio, the pastor of the Christian church in Colonet is helping her dig a footing for a table in her wash house.

Another home when the light was turned on in this dark  windowless room. It is only the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb, but What a difference! I like this photo also for the high heeled shoes over the door. There were 3 pairs but i didn’t want to be too intrusive; however they appear in the last photo.

Little silent things like those shoes have much to tell if we listen.


After the lights are installed, instructions for their use given and   the switch thrown turned by one of the children LFL makes the final point by giving each child a set of  age appropriate books; we take a last  group photograph; and  Adios is the perfect one word speech.

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Lighting For Literacy, Colonet, Baja California, 2017

Posted on Updated on


“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

“The greatest Christian virtue is doing, the least is talking.

“Beware you be not swallowed up in books!

“An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

                                      John Wesley

I have seldom been so rewarded for being a Methodist as on my fourth trip to Colonet, Baja California, where I was privileged to interpret for Doug McNeil and Kevin Kinsella while they worked on a Lighting For Literacy (LFL)  project guiding middle school students in lighting up the lives of eight families living in  Ejido Punta Colonet. In doing so they also lighted up middle school STEM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in the minds of students who put together the lighting systems and went to Colonet to install them.

The cats at Los Gatos Methodist Church (LGMC) and Rotary International (RI) know (LFL) well, having witnessed it’s lightening fast 60 day gestation and assisted its birth in 2012. Their very first solar lighting installation was actually in Colonet, Baja Ca. Within the next two years LFL projects reached 8- and counting-  continents, and introduced STEM and LFL to 1200 and counting middle school students at that age where inner spaces and lives can be lighted up in the process of lighting up remote places. AT Colonet this April I felt enlightened as well. I would go anywhere with these dudes and these children. 

Without burdening the reader more heavily with words, a browser  will lead to many links, here are a few that can tell about LFL better than I. 

LGRI Rotary

  LFL

 LFL Ivory Coast

The photographs below tell  of the experience more clearly than words, and may lead the reader to consider the possibility of LFL:

 

 

 

 

 

Doug McNeil

 Kevin Kinsella

First job of every morning  putting together two  units  for two houses. I couldn’t see how it was done, but these people did.

The plastic bag holds mounting brackets and connectors. Note  all the wires, and the name of the student on the lid.

The rechargeable battery goes in the box too. Simple, no? Yeah, Right!

Jessica

 

Tom in a moment of silent and serious concentration. I believe he is a monk in a grizzly bear skin disguise.

 

A fence perfectly representing the environment. The stakes are dried up spikes of cactus plant shoots. They are placed on  barbed wire, then tied on with rolled up salvaged black plastic bags.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are dried roots of the same cactus- Maguey- dug up from the sullen and reticent gravelly soil with considerable effort, to serve for cooking fires.

 

Dogs, dogs, dogs, everywhere.  We saw no house without doggy  gangs of 5 or more. They alert arrival of strangers and fend off coyotes,  if they are lucky; but numbers help.

The little Pichons must take care of their own hygiene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alejandro cleaning the spines from Prickly Pear cactus  …new growth leaves, or  nopales are used for a very common vegetable dish. He gave us a one week old dried rattlesnake which he advised us to let dry more, then grind up, and use with any food…like re fried beans and ground rattlesnake.  Cascabel con frijoles refritos.

 

 

 

 

I fell under the spell of this admirable woman.  She was a migrant farm worker from Chiapas, not speaking any Spanish; met  and married. Their 15 year old son works for a builder and did much of the block  construction;  15 years is adult at times. (During WWII my dad worked at a copper mine in Chihuahua. When I was 10 he took me to El Paso and put me on a troop train with $5. I got to  Northern CA  with some help from the soldiers. Like children in Colonet, we were older when younger then.  From this distance that doesn’t seem a bad thing.

 

I can’t  pronounce or recall  her name but will never forget her.  In this photo Antonio, the pastor of the Christian church in Colonet is helping her dig a footing for a table in her wash house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another home when the light was turned on in this dark  windowless room. It is only the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb, but What a difference! I like this photo also for the high heeled shoes over the door. There were 3 pairs but I didn’t want to be too intrusive with my photos.

Little silent things like those shoes have much to say if we listen.

Another wash-house with a dog in its shade,   and a fenced garden in back overlooking open countrywide. Unseen are 10,000 ft

peaks to the East.  –The Sierra de San Pedro Mártir.  But here the only vegetation remaining is thorny scrub brush and

maguey  cactus; nonetheless it is a beautiful green Spring after heavy Winter rains, and there are stubborn tiny flowers everywhere.

The lights installed, instructions given;  the switch is turned on by one of the children; and LFL makes the final point by giving each child a set of  age appropriate books; we take a last  group photograph. Adios is the perfect word.

Observations about Family

I would have never gone to Colonet without following my children, Amy and John and their Los Gatos family. The April 2017 buildings would not have been successful without my son Fred,  who drove 1800 miles to be here; or 3600 if he gets home; or his Colonet counterpart, Ivan. Or pastor Antonio.  Or, need it even be said, the  VIMers who were the glue that put it together. It strikes me that this  LFL  project post    tells of the nature of family. Families who keep animals in, and  desert varmints and coyotes out with  close spaced brittle dead stalks of cactus plants,  wire and plastic waste;  who carve out  a place in the desert to imagine a  house  into existence– no, a home– largely made of trash. That’s what only families can do, like those pictured  above.

I acknowledge that fat, happy,  flawed, or failing,  all I am is family. My parents and grandparents, and my Methodists;  even my intolerant or rude fellow citizens; and not least,  my children who refuse to let me go through my own rosy second childhood quietly, but take me to places like Colonet, to be nourished or frightened  by the life forces of VIM and LFL.; I blame you all for disturbing my golden years; but especially Amy, Fred and John; if they aren’t a blessing disguised as family, who is?

Here you are,  in the photos below, my babes,  late  on that Sunday afternoon, after a long trip and a long drive, framing the first wall. Like, Wow! What Energy! What discipline! What Organization!  What Execution! But unfortunately  the very next morning I had to go pal around with Doug/ Kevin et al.

So thank you, I suppose, for disturbing my personal quiet, reflective peace!