Village Power 2000
First Stop, Uganda!



As the second millennium begins, much of the world is still in the Dark Ages. But teams using new wireless technologies are bringing the promise of light and information at feasible costs to regions long denied them.

This week federal agencies, working with schoolchildren, churches, companies and non-profits, will send 25 U.S. students to Uganda to meet 18 Ugandan students to demonstrate the capabilities of solar power and Internet technology. They will travel together around the rural countryside to electrify schools, a homeless shelter, an orphanage and other community buildings that basically shut down after 6 pm because it's pitch black. One of those schools is Uganda's only school for pygmy children, on the edge of the rainforest where the Mbuti pygmy people still live. They will call back by satellite phone, and post information on their progress on the worldwide web.

The student group is part of the Hathaway Foundation's Youth Mission to Uganda. The Hathaway Foundation was founded by Bishop Alden Hathaway to bring solar electric light to the churches of Africa. Their persistence and enthusiasm pulled together an unlikely group of partners: the Department of Energy -- which wants to see its renewable energy technologies more broadly adopted, the Agency for International Development, and the United States Information Agency. This collaboration was made possible by the White House Millennium Council, created by Executive Order in 1997 to devise interesting programs to celebrate the millennium. The partnership has expanded to take in two more U.S. schools about to go solar, the International Youth Foundation, Discovery Channel Global Education Fund, Solar Energy for Africa, SolarQuest, BP Solarex and United Solar Corporation.

The students each raised $3,000 for solar panels from their community. An anonymous donor paid the air fares, and the partners are paying for more solar panels, TV, VCR, satellite dish, and a Worldphone. The students will meet with the First Lady of Uganda, Janet Museveni, then set off on their expedition to wire schools and other buildings for solar power. They will be sending back daily reports on their experiences, the reaction of the Ugandan schoolchildren and digital photos that will all be posted on the Internet at The group will address a special session of the Ugandan Parliament at the end of the trip.

Their adventure will be filmed so that the school children in the US who helped to raise funds can better see what their efforts have produced. The schools in Ohio and East LA will host solar parties, and develop educational projects on energy, Africa, and the environment. These events will be filmed by the Foundation for Environmental Education that produces environmental shows for PBS.

The group leaves on July 27 and returns from Uganda on August 11.

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