RHLCT Co-Trustee Jerry Lonnes and RHLCT Executive Director Jeff Fairfield present a check for $10,000 to Kyle Clark, MSN, RN, Head Nurse at the Community Hospice House of Richmond. This grant was approved and funded by the RHLCT Board of Trustees this summer to support the on-going capital campaign to expand the capacity of the Richmond Community Hospice House. A facility operated by Bon Secours Mercy Health Foundation, the 16-bed facility in suburban Richmond provides compassionate, end-of-life care to terminally ill residents and their families. Since 2015, The Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Trust has awarded grants totaling $162,500 to the Community Hospice House of Richmond.
The Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Trust is the first funder to support the Solar Electric Light Fund’s (SELF) pilot project in Bukyerimba, Uganda. It is aimed at reducing sexual violence against women and girls who are stalked by predators while collecting water and firewood for their families in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. By installing solar-powered streetlights and a solar-powered water station, as well as introducing solar cookers for food preparation, the project will significantly decrease the need for females to venture into isolated areas.
Based on the success of the project, SELF and its Ugandan partner, Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF), believe the pilot can be replicated throughout Sub-Saharan Africa where the need is greatest. In central and eastern Africa alone, the prevalence of sexual violence against women can be as high as 37%.
SELF has installed a three-story water tower that connects to a distribution network in the village so that no one will have to walk far to get water. It is no longer necessary for women and girls to spend several hours every day seeking water—with the threat of a brutal attack always on their minds. Another advantage resulting from the system’s clean water is that water-borne diseases are no longer a threat, especially to young children.
Solar streetlights now illuminate the project area at night—but not just to increase security. Students in Bukyerimba and nearby villages congregate at the streetlights to do their homework, and neighbors can now safely gather at night. Businesses are staying open longer because customers are no longer afraid to be outside after dark. With businesses staying open, the local economy is starting to improve.
In 2021, SELF plans to launch a program that will introduce the community to a new kind of cooking that depends upon solar thermal energy from the sun for heat; thus, it drastically reduces the need for collecting firewood. When wood fires are no longer used for cooking, life-threatening pulmonary conditions from inhaling smoke and ash will no longer be a danger to the women. The program includes launching a women-run, solar cookstove business. A 10 kW micro-grid will provide light in the RHF safe house, children’s center, and administrative office. It will also serve several solar-powered appliances—a cell phone charging station, grain mill, and refrigerator (for cold drinks). The appliances will generate revenue to assure the project’s sustainability and provide an opportunity for the women to learn entrepreneurship.
Even though the project’s entire installation is not yet complete, evidence of success is seen around the community—not just for the women and girls, but everyone. Hellen Tanyinga, Executive Director of RHF, says that the Kamuli Police Department (where Bukyerimba is located) reports that, since the opening of the water station and the installation of new streetlights, the number of sexual assaults has already dropped by 30%. Add to that statistic that 100% of the people in Bukyerimba have had their lives significantly improved because of their access to clean water and lights. What started as funding from the Launders Trust to reduce sexual assault has delivered multiple returns on its philanthropic investment.
Contributed by Karen Allen. Karen is the Development Director for the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) based in Washington D.C. Her work at SELF brings her full circle to her early career when she spent time in the bush in Central and South America, where she witnessed first-hand the consequences of energy poverty.
Health Access Sumbawa (HAS) does malaria control and community development work on a shoestring budget in a roadless area of Sumbawa, a relatively poor Island in Eastern Indonesia. In 2015 we set out to control malaria in three remote villages for the price of a car. Remarkably, we succeeded. Our systematic program involves prevention measures such as hanging insecticide treated bed-nets in every home, then screening the population for malaria with a microscope and providing effective treatment. *
Five years ago the coastal farming village of Sili (where HAS is based) had every development challenge you could think of: No reliable road, not much electricity, no public water, no toilets, no employers, no health clinic, no shops, no schooling past the 6th grade.
Everyone wants the benefits of technology. We take our comforts for granted and sometimes forget that there are millions of people still living without such luxuries as running water or a toilet. Poverty is a major hurdle to overcome, but lack of money is not the whole story. Large well-funded development projects can fail just as spectacularly as small grassroots efforts. There are many potholes on the road to development.
What follows is a series of personal stories and lessons gleaned from working in Sumbawa at the grass-roots level over the past five years.
The significance of roads
Everything we do is made so much harder because Sili village in central Sumbawa has no reliable road connecting it to the outside world. Some might say the area is not exactly roadless. there is a dirt track that’s passable by a 4 x 4 truck or a strong motorbike on a dry day. But after a rain, not even a dirt bike can make it up the steep greasy mountain track to Tolo’oi. Walking out is your only safe option in any weather.
A road connects a community to hospitals, schools, government services, buyers and sellers. Minor equipment failures such as a broken pull cord on a chain saw can delay projects for days or weeks in a roadless area. No reliable transport means the sick stay home in bed instead of going to hospital, students quit school after the 6th grade rather than go out for junior high, farmers sell their crop at lower prices to the only broker who comes to their village, people go hungry when they run out of food in their kitchen, and government planners fail to fund development projects because so few people have ever visited the community to see the problems.
Road construction is beyond the scope of Health access Sumbawa activities. Nevertheless, we needed a transportation strategy.
- We lobby elected officials for a road. I’ve found it’s most effective to emphasis the economic potential of the roadless area rather than complain about the hardship of living off the grid. I’m sure the Bupati (the area regent-an elected position) had never heard of Sili and it’s “best beach in Sumbawa” before I told him about it. The next year there was a plan (but no funding yet) to build a road.
- We develop relationships with strong skillful motorbike drivers to “taxi” HAS nurses and administrators around.
- We found a reliable fishing boat captain for water taxi. HAS supplies passengers with U.S. Coastguard approved life jackets.
- We bought two 29-inch mountain bikes for the clinic. Human-powered. Large wheels to handle rough terrain. Faster than walking.
Electricity- What went wrong with the ambitious solar grid?
A reliable source of electricity is another cornerstone of development. Even people in off-the-grid communities depend on cell phones and rechargeable battery powered lights these days.
In 2013 the government built a small community-based solar powered grid for Sili village. It was state-of-the art. Every home was connected by cable. The solar panels, inverters and batteries at the power company headquarters provided every home with enough power for a few lights, cell phone charging, and maybe a TV set for an hour each evening. the system even included street lights for the village.
The grid worked well for a year or two but by 2016 there were frequent periods of no service. One problem was cheating. Many people wanted to run a water pump or a TV. Homeowners soon figured out that they could bypass the metered connection to their house and take unlimited power directly from the pole. This caused the system to crash. Half the rate-payers stopped paying their modest $2 a month utility bill so the service technician stopped responding to calls.
There has been no electricity in the village for the past two years except at the power house. The three-room utility building has become a central charging station for phones and flashlights from all over the village. The room is a maze of power cords. People have decided that a central charging station is their greatest need for electricity. They’ve abandoned hope for a power grid that delivers electricity to their homes.
What went wrong? Perhaps the whole concept was too complex and, in the end, delivered too little power. The goal was to provide 300 watts per household, which is not enough to run water pumps, refrigerators, or power tools. People would still need a gasoline or propane generator for that. The grid never addressed that need.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that there were more appropriate solutions to meet the modest power generation goals of the project. Two alternatives are:
- Solar charging stations distributed around the village.
- A decentralized program that places mini solar panels on each home. This decentralized concept solves several of the fatal flaws of the centralized grid. It eliminates the problem of cheating, and pushes responsibility for maintenance down to the individual household level. When a system fails, only one house is affected.
Some of the personal solar power technology available today is astonishingly good. One of my favorites is Waka Waka Power +, a solar powered power bank and LED light the size of a hand phone. The light is bright enough for my old eyes to read the smallest type, and the battery lasts many hours. We also use cheap solar-powered security lights for general lighting. They activate by a motion detector, so you have to wave at the unit from time to time to keep it on, which is amusing at first but eventually becomes second nature. You can also hang the light from a string and spin it, creating a disco effect. Yes, we actually do that.
Toilets- The dangers of doing it badly.
Promoting Toilets is another goal everyone can agree on. What could possibly go wrong? A few years ago the village government gave three bags of cement to every house as a way to encourage people to build toilet houses. Unfortunately, there was no design guidance, no supervision, no follow-up. Most people sold their bags of cement. A few toilets were built, mostly too close to their water well. The septic tank design was faulty, and within a year raw sewage was visible on the surface of the ground.
A bad toilet is much worse than no toilet at all. It becomes a hazardous waste site. The traditional “jungle floor toileting” used by people in rural communities disburses the waste over a large area where it breaks down quickly. It is nature’s system. As we promote widespread use of toilets, we really must teach about the risks of bad waste water system design.
Health Access Sumbawa has built four toilets in Sili village in the past three years. One is a public bathhouse/toilet in front of our clinic. We consciously designed the building site so the septic tank/field could be at least thirty meters from any well. Our toilets are the only ones in Sili village to have running water. By the way, the primary school in Sili village has neither a toilet nor water.
Few people used the public bath house the first year, perhaps thinking it could not possibly be for them. By the second year it became so popular we had a problem supplying enough water. People started to complain that the water tank was often empty when they wanted to shower. We have since added a second tower and another 1,100-liter tank.
Pumping water while off the grid
It is challenging to provide running water to a community with no electricity or public water system. You need electricity to run a water pump, unless you are lucky enough to have an elevated water source such as a mountain spring which flows by gravity.
We dig or bore a well by hand, then pump water into a 1,100-liter water tank which sits on top of a tower. The tower is not expensive to build. We construct it from local timber which has been milled into columns and planks using a chain saw. Once the tank is filled, gravity provides the water pressure. This works fine as long as your taps are lower than the bottom of the tank.
There are three ways we could pump water without a power grid.
- Use a generator to power an electric water pump.
- use a gasoline-powered portable water pump.
- Use a solar or wind powered water pump.
Our first choice would be solar powered, because the fuel is delivered for free. Re-supplying propane canisters or gasoline cans is difficult and time consuming in a roadless area. It’s pretty common to run out of fuel, and resupply requires a full day of hazardous travel by motorbike. Solar water pumps move low volumes of water continuously whenever the sun shines. They don’t pump when the sun doesn’t shine. The pumps we found seem to work best when residential use can be paired with a trickle irrigation system for a farm. This is fine if you have the right situation. We’re excited about trying this pairing idea at our Beach Farm after we get the beach cottage built.
Solar pumps need a lot of storage capacity to perform satisfactorily in situations where demand for water peaks several times a day, such as a public bath house. For this application, a gasoline powered water pump is our most practical solution.
Advantages of portable water pumps-
- Move more water faster and with less fuel than a pump powered by a generator.
- Are affordable, rugged and easy to service.
- Can be transported on a motorbike. We plan to use one machine to fill tanks in multiple locations.
Regarding safe drinking water, we have found that the Sawyer 0.10 microns hollow membranes water filter is reliable and easy/cheap to maintain. (Back-wash by hand. No replacement filters required). We have been using these for four years now. One unit can filter enough drinking water for several households and costs under $100. We have not tried to filter muddy water. Fortunately, our water doesn’t have sediment.
Malaria control in three years- but no quick fix to sustain the gains.
As with all HAS initiatives, sustaining progress is the hardest part of our malaria elimination work. There is no inoculation, no immunity for malaria. People suffer repeated bouts in endemic areas. The only way to sustain a low infection rate is to fund an ongoing health service. You need to provide primary health care with a malaria component. This is a much bigger mission than we originally signed up for. But there is no other choice.
It turned out that HAS could step into this added role quickly and cheaply by partnering with the government health service. HAS already had one of the best health facilities in the region, the only clinic with running water. We hired the government nurses working in adjacent villages to come to Sili two days a week on a staggered schedule so our clinic is staffed and open 6 days a week. Primary health care at our clinic is free to the public, including medicines.
Travel by motorbike over dirt trails is tough for the nurses, but the added income provides powerful motivation. Government salaries are so low, the nurses are able to double their monthly income by working two days a week for HAS.
Small is beautiful
HAS is a volunteer organization with no paid staff at headquarters. We have a strategic reason to stay small. As social entrepreneurs, we want the enterprise to become self-sustaining one day. The goal of sustainability is more realistic if we keep our program in scale with the local economy. HAS is working toward a budget of $100,000/ year, which is significantly more than the government currently spends on health care in our expanded service area, which covers 50 kilometers x 15 kilometers and about 7,000 people.
Our operating budget for the clinic is just $20,000 a year. A $15,000 challenge grant provided by The Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Trust (RHLCT.org) was the catalyst HAS needed to increase its total annual budget to $55,000 last year. These new resources allowed us to significantly expand our service area for malaria, and pursue a range of initiatives designed to improve access to clean water, sanitation, and adequate nutrition.
A lesson in humility -The limits of technology
One morning we were leaving Sili for a meeting in the city of Macassar. When I tried to fill the kettle to boil water for coffee, no water flowed from the tap. The 1,100-liter water tank had been drained dry by early bathers at the community bathhouse. I went to start the water pump but we were out of gasoline. To top it off, when I tried to light the two-burner stove in the kitchen, there was no flame. the propane canister was empty. Someone joked that we had timed our departure from Sili almost perfectly.
For a few minutes we were baffled. Then the solution became obvious: We needed to revert back to the traditional way of doing things. Someone got a bucket and a piece of rope to take water from the well. Others built a cooking fire in the garden. Soon we were enjoying our campfire coffee and delicious grilled fish, fresh-caught during the night by our neighbor, a rare treat. We had been humbled by the limitations of our hard-to-sustain technology, and were reminded that sometimes the old ways are most reliable.
It’s not easy to design sustainable infrastructure which is as reliable as traditional methods. Poor people will not choose to cook with gas when firewood is free and readily available. A solar cooker is fine when the sun shines, but it’s useless on a rainy day, after dark or inside the house. A good gravel road is better than a thin asphalt one. Potholes in gravel can be patched with local materials. Potholes in bad asphalt become money pits.
We have learned that people often revert back to their traditional ways rather than fix technology when it stops working. People want technology, but it must be reliable, durable and affordable. Keep it simple and easy to maintain. Avoid products with “consumable” parts to buy, such as replacement water filters or disposable batteries.
A squat toilet with a properly designed and located septic system is an example of old technology that works great. The squatting position is already used by villagers and is anatomically preferable to sitting, the toilet flushes with just a dipper of water, there are no moving parts to break, and no consumables to buy such as toilet paper. Users wash their bum with water using the dipper. Hundreds of millions of squat toilets are in use throughout Asia.
Another old technology that has been updated is the mosquito net. Today’s nets, woven from polyester yarn, are less likely to get moldy than the old cotton ones. They can be impregnated with a safe long-lasting insecticide that immobilizes insects. We use WHO tested nets, Permanet 2.0 size 190 x 180 x150 cm. We can place three of these large nets in a home for about $30 to protect the entire family. Any tears or holes can be repaired with a needle and thread.
There have been many potholes in the road to development in Sili. We fill them in as we go along as best we can. The journey continues to be the adventure of a lifetime.
*For more information about the HAS project in Sumbawa, see RHLCT.ORG under Grants (Discretionary).
Launders Trust Helps Launch Solar Energy Project to Reduce Sexual Assaults Against Women and Girls in Uganda
The Launders Trust has made a gift to the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) that, in partnership with the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF), could provide far-reaching benefits to women and girls in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Collecting water and fuelwood has traditionally been their responsibility. They are forced to walk long distances to isolated areas, often in the dark. Their cumbersome cargo slows their pace—putting them at a high risk of sexual assault and its life-altering consequences.
The story of Jane, a 20-year-old woman from Butansi Village in eastern Uganda, illustrates the pain and heartache these women endure. Her dream of becoming a doctor was over in an instant when she hiked into the bush to collect firewood for her family one evening. She was raped by three teenage boys. Left sitting in a pool of blood, she pleaded for help from a man passing by. Instead of acting compassionately, he also raped her. Jane’s family blamed her for “enticing” her rapists and losing her bride price. She was vanquished from her home and left penniless, pregnant, and infected with HIV/AIDS. She must still travel across the same treacherous footpaths to gather fuelwood and water to support her twin children who were conceived as a result of the rape.
Yet, from the scattered ashes of those women’s and girls’ hopes and dreams, there are rays of light. Hellen Tanyinga is one of them. After many years, her rapist is still at large. She explains, “A lot of things run through my mind when I think of the attack, but what heals me is that I was able to start the Rape Hurts Foundation. I choose love instead of hatred, and I have turned my pain into a voice for the voiceless.”
Hellen reached out to the Solar Electric Light Fund, a Washington, DC-based non-profit that has previously received support from the Launders Trust to assist those living in energy poverty, to help address the problem of rampant sexual violence in rural communities. Together, the two organizations created a pilot program that puts clean drinking water stations illuminated with solar streets lights as well as wood-free, solar cook stoves within their community to vastly reduce the need to leave the security of their villages. The project includes revenue-producing services like a solar grain mill to produce flour, charging stations for cell phones, and a solar refrigerator to set up a cold drink business. In addition, they will charge a nominal fee for drinking water. These commercial stations not only assure that there is money to maintain and repair the solar equipment; they also provide work opportunities for the women who are being rehabilitated through the Rape Hurts Foundation. The project also provides electricity to the women’s safe house and the children’s center run by RHF. Hellen has about 120 mouths to feed every day!
If the resulting pilot project data makes a strong case for the concept of centralizing resources within villages, the intent of SELF and RHF is to make this model replicable and scalable for other organizations to adopt—leveraging the Launders Trust gift many times over.
The Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Trust continues to enlarge upon its tradition of supporting parks in Fairfax County, Virginia. Drawing upon its past contributions of Arrowbrook Centre Park and the Arrowbrook Wetland Nature Preserve to the Fairfax County Park Authority in 2010 and 2011, in August 2018 the Trust dedicated the Arrowbrook Centre Dog Park. While not an asset of the Park Authority, the dog park is open to the public and serves residents of Arrowbrook Centre and its environs. The Dog Park is named in memory of the late L. Farnum Johnson, Jr., one of the Trust’s original 7 co-trustees and the first Chairman of its Board of Trustees. Mr. Johnson owned 2 Black Labrador Retrievers, Blackjack and Lucky, who always enjoyed their regular visits to local dog parks. Farnum’s long-held dream of a dog park at Arrowbrook Centre has not been fulfilled.
The Trust also continues as a sponsor and chief benefactor of an annual summer concert series held in Arrowbrook Centre Park on Saturday evenings in July and August. The series commemorates the life of Ruth Launders and her beloved Arrowhead Farm, now the site of the Arrowbrook Centre Park. This series will mark its 8th consecutive year in 2019.
In addition, the Trust continues to expand on its support of Frying Pan Historical Farm Park, a popular Fairfax County park in Herndon. For many years, through a special agreement between the Trust and the Fairfax County Park Authority, the staff of Frying Pan has harvested hay at Arrowbrook Centre for use in feeding its livestock at Frying Pan Park. Last year, using a grant from the Trust to the Fairfax County Park Foundation, Frying Pan Park purchased a specialized “no-till” planter for its use in planting grass seed at various locations including Arrowbrook Centre.
How Cultural Organizations Can Reach Out to Younger More Diverse Populations Using the Kingston Chamber Music Festival Model
Historically, the Kingston Chamber Music Festival has served two distinct audiences: younger school children through its schools outreach program and middle age to older adults who have patronized the summer festival since its inception. This latter community is dwindling as age takes its toll. The KCMF Board recognizes an immediate need to safeguard the long-range stability of this celebrated organization by intentionally diversifying its audience base.
Thanks to generous support from the Launders Trust, the KCMF Board of Directors is able to address a key element of the current KCMF strategic plan: to attract and serve younger audience members in their thirties and forties who can help define, lead, and support the Kingston Chamber Music Festival over the coming decades.
As a Board, we are pursuing the following strategies to build a younger audience base:
1. Implementation of focus groups comprised of younger local concertgoers to determine present barriers to KCMF attendance and preferences among the 30-40-somethings for programming;
2. Exploration of opportunities for collaborative programming between the local Contemporary Theatre Company, the Pumphouse Music Works, the Jamestown Arts Center, the South County Art Association, and similar organizations;
3. Booking at least one or two Launders-sponsored, KCMF events in new venues with KCMF-endorsed crossover artists and programming, if findings so indicate;
4. Improvement of the KCMF digital toolkit to enhance social media and web interface for the purpose of strengthening sales, audience outreach and follow-up; and
5. Recruitment of talented younger individuals to the KCMF Board of Directors.
The focus of this targeted Launders funding opportunity is welcome. For the long-term health of the organization, we need to diversify our audience base. A small KCMF sub-committee, including our President and our Managing Director, who is a member of the thirty-something community is presently engaging in deep conversations with contemporary peers to ascertain barriers they perceive in KCMF concert attendance and what would have to change to attract their attendance/participation in the future. Focus group sessions around this topic will be convened in late November, either at the Contemporary Theatre or the Pumphouse Music works.
Additionally, we have booked concert space at the Pumphouse Musicworks for a crossover concert with KCMF artists in late February 2019. Natalie Zhu , Artistic
Director of the KCMF is in the process of confirming musicians for this performance, one who has an international reputation for his crossover endeavors. We anticipate that further programming for this audience will be in response to our findings from the focus groups and questionnaires.
We thank the Launders Trust Board of Directors for its investment in the Kingston Chamber Music Festival, and we look forward to keeping you all updated on our progress.