And the light was there!

 By Gabriella Galloro

Light: that of the sun, of a fire, of Christmas trees, of the shops windows, of a light bulb lit on throughout the night. Joy, celebration… hope. Today we want to tell you about the difference that light can make. Because, if you live in the world’s largest refugee camp, on the border between Kenya and Somalia, being able to study also at night, or when it gets dark, is something that gives you hope for the future…  

(Cover photo by Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

It’s seven o’clock in the morning, a winter day in Milan. The alarm goes off, from the cracks of the shutters you can see that it’s still dark. It’s better to turn on the light and start the day … Electricity, what a great discovery! But what is light? If I were to talk to Isaac Newton he would definitely begin with his complicated corpuscular theory, making sure that Hertz doesn’t hear, though! Otherwise he would drag me into a long explanation in support of the wave theory …

At 7 am, the day seems to hint a probable a headache…Being a good Sicilian, light brings joy to me making my mind running quickly to the thoughts of the sun and the sea. It reminds me the cities illuminated for Christmas time, it allows me to choose colours for my drawings and read when everyone is asleep, simply by turning on the light. And yet there are places in the world where light isn’t that granted and where switching on a light bulb would mean to light a hope. One of these places is Dadaab, the largest refugees’ camp in the world, a city located in the Garissa district, in Kenya. The Dadaab camp was built in the early 90’s by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to accommodate Somali refugees fleeing the civil war and, over the last thirty years, it has provided shelter, albeit precarious, to people affected by war and famine in one of the world’s poorest areas. Today it’s home to 350,000 people, half of which are school-age children, many of whom were born right in the camp.

Half of Dadaab’s people is in school-age

In Dadaab as many as 33 schools have been built, not enough to meet the demand for education, but what is missed  most there is light. Today I tell you this story, because, once again, when it comes to energy and access to energy, this company really amazes me. Because Eni is made up of people who are able to feel close to people who live far away in terms of culture and tradition, but meantime still succeeding in finding solutions to overcome significant problems. I don’t know much about Dadaab, I’ve started a research which takes me to the most important international web sites. What strucks me most is an article in The Guardian, read it if you feel like it…

As far as concerning Eni’s part, it all started in 2015, when the company’s Chief Executive, Claudio Descalzi, took part in a videoconference lesson with the children of the refugees camp organised by the Vodafone Foundation. After this lesson, the CEO wrote a post on the company’s blog where he expressed how unique was such experience, “an opportunity to put our everyday problems into perspective.” Once more it’s the energy to make the difference, because during the video lesson what it strikes you is the energy that those kids are endowed with, and in a very difficult context.

Eni’s project will involve 7,000 students by 2017

And this is how “the call for ideas” stems from involving everybody in Eni… that led to the so-called project: “Eni brings light to Dadaab”. Because the possibility of having light also at night was a turning point in the development of humankind.  Light brings with itself the feasibility of studying  at previously unthinkable hours (at Dadaab there is a limited number of school textbooks and students have to take rounds), the creation of adult literacy classes (for those that due to the war had to interrupt studying) and the increase of the number of courses for children. Besides, light translates into greater safety. All this is made possible by solar energy.

The first Eni’s structures were installed in the “Friends Primary School” at the Ifo camp and in the “Bidii Primary School” in the Hagadera camp. And with the light the first computers also came along… What is happening these days however it is only a first step. By 2017 the schools involved in the project should increase from 2 to 8, which means the involvement of about 7,000 students (aged between 3 and 16) and 150 teachers. In such educational path, Eni is also supported by the AVSI Foundation, an NGO active in development projects mainly regarding children educational aspects, the future of the world. What a story! There is still a long way to go of course, much is still to be done, but being able to start is what it counts … Because the energy of the children is what is most important and only thanks to educated young people can we hope for a better future.

SEE MORE: “Life is changing…” by Eniday Staff

about the author
Gabriella Galloro