My name is Abdullahi Mohomed Adow. I’m a 33-year-old refugee from Somalia, currently living with my family (my wife and our eight children, and my mother) in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. We arrived here in 2009, after the situation in Somalia became too dangerous for us to stay.

Living in the camp is not easy. We are struggling to adapt to a rural setting, and due to safety concerns, we can’t always walk outside after dark. The situation is especially difficult for my children, for whom there is little opportunity for education. The hardest part for me is to live in a situation of dependence; I wish I could provide for my family by myself, but I can’t secure a job in spite of my skills and work experience.

So when UNHCR came with the solar lighting training project, I immediately decided to get involved.

This was the opportunity for us to finally start making something with our own hands, and gain a little bit more independence by gradually taking charge of the lighting system in the community. After years living in the camp, this was something none of us could dream of.

The training

I was among nine refugees (six men and three women) who participated in the training with UNHCR to learn how to manufacture solar lights. Three members of the host community also took part (two men and one woman). During two weeks, we learned the names of electrical components, how to assemble them, and how to make use of locally available components. We were also taught how to manufacture and install the lights using water bottles, both for the street and for households. We produced a total of 57 lights; the street lights were installed in public places such as main roads, junctions, playgrounds, mosques and markets.


Photo: Abdullahi and fellow Liter of Light participants discuss the results of their training.

In general the lights have worked fantastically in terms of assembly and installation. They have also had immeasurable impact on our community; they facilitate greater freedom of movement and ensure security in public places. Children use them to study at night, and people can go to the market when it’s dark.

Overcoming challenges

However we have also been facing challenges; we have now run out of most of the electrical components as well as the solar panels that were initially provided to us, but we are still doing maintenance and repair work on the lights that have already been installed.

What’s more, some of the lights stopped working after the batteries malfunctioned, and 19 street lights were stolen. I have been communicating by email with our facilitators in Geneva to determine the cause of the breakdowns; we think the size of the cables that have been sourced locally may be at fault. Our ongoing dialogue has allowed me to receive other valuable feedback and tips.

I believe that in order to overcome these challenges, we need an experienced technician to work with us closely and continuously until we fully master the manufacturing and troubleshooting processes.

It would also be helpful to get refreshment training to make sure our skills are up to date. Finally, we need to secure better electrical components and batteries to avoid malfunctions in the future.

I’m happy we’ve been able to keep in touch with the team in Geneva, and that we’ve received support from them. I hope we can soon fix those issues and produce more lights for the rest of the community.

Photo: The low level of the street lights allowed easy access for the lights to be stolen in the camp.

To read more about the progress of the Liter of Light project in Dollo Ado click here.

Do you have any solutions on how we can address the challenges Abdullahi has faced since the training has ended? Tell us in the comments below.







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