Power a Life's story started off a dusty road in Northern Senegal. Under a blistering sun, we discovered what daily life was like for rural villagers and together, decided on the challenge we wanted to solve.
It all started with My Favourite Place.
But hold on a second, because before we get to My Favourite Place (MFP) in Senegal, we need to head to the other side of the world, in an equally hot place - Singapore.
Our founder, Jeremie, worked an internship in Singapore during his year out in practice as an architecture student. It was during this time that he saw first hand how the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. Building multi million pound mansions for multi millionaire clients, but using migrant Bangladeshi construction workers was a hard pill to swallow. He realised he wanted to make a difference for the poor and not the rich.
Frustrated by this, upon his return to uni to finish his degree, he geared all of his studies towards humanitarian design and sustainable development. His research left the classroom and went into the field with the deployment of the children’s photography workshop - My Favourite Place. Designed to be the first step in a design methodology that was participatory, it would reveal to Jeremie and his colleagues daily struggles and challenges through the eyes of children in rural communities in order to design better solutions. But, the team needed a community to work with, so the hunt for a friendly African contact began.
Eventually, a family friend who works in West Africa stepped forward with a friendly contact who would know how to help the team on the ground. The team was introduced by email to Cherif - the CEO of a local credit union. With nothing more than flights booked to Dakar in Senegal and the telephone number for Cherif, the team headed off and rented a pickup truck to meet Cherif in a small town called Kebemer.
When the team met Cherif, he got it. He immediately understood why the team was there, what they wanted to accomplish and how best to achieve it. He was delighted the team wanted to work with the local children to better understand the challenges of daily life and any miscommunication via email and muffled long distance phone calls was quickly resolved. Much to the teams delight, he insisted the only way to get the work done would be with a home stay with a village chief. Before the team headed off to meet the chief, they asked Cherif - ‘how many kids can we get to take part in MFP’. Cherif answered - ‘hundreds’.
The next few days ended up being a bit of a blur. Each day started at sunrise with a rooster calling at first light, quick cup of sugary coffee, wash under a bucket and into the pickup to meet villagers in the surrounding villages. The team went through the same ritual with each village - meet the chief, eat some food together (the Senegalese are renowned for their ‘Teranga’ or hospitality), drink some tea, then meet the whole village and explain what we wanted to do.
The pictures the kids took during the workshop were incredible. The intimate insight they gave the team was far beyond their expectations. The most profound realisation though, was than none of the pictures were taken at night, as everyone lives in near total darkness once the sun goes down. The team knew this as they were living off grid with the villagers, but the impact this has on children trying to do their homework hadn’t been fully appreciated.
And so the idea for Power a life was born. The company would sell portable power products in developed countries, in order to gift for free, portable power products to kids in the world’s poorest countries.
Buy one - Give one
The team have since gone on to gift solar light as a result of sales of power banks in the UK to school kids in Senegal, The Gambia and Zimbabwe - with the impact tracked and measured, showing that the gift of light to children is transformational.
Kids who receive lights get better grades.