These Little Lights of Mine

an elephant grazing in Murchison Park, adjacent to Te Okot
an elephant grazing in Murchison Park, adjacent to Te Okot

The elephants of Te Okot were tromping through my mind today.

A few weeks ago, I received a mini grant that allowed me to purchase 23 solar lights from Unite to Light, the same company I purchased solar lights from last year.

23 more solar lights for Te Okot.

23 solar lights that will not be fire hazards in their huts.

23 solar lights that won’t accidentally set their mosquito nets on fire.

23 solar lights that won’t require families to purchase kerosene and then breathe toxic kerosene fumes.

23 solar lights to keep the wild elephants at bay.

It’s that last one that gives me goosebumps.  You might know the story already, but if not, let me get you up to speed.  The people of Te Okot are sustenance farmers, meaning the food from their gardens is what they eat.  It’s not like there’s a grocery store down the block.

A garden = food = life.

So you can imagine what, quite literally, a large problem it was for the people of Te Okot to have wild elephants come and devour their gardens at night, not to mention the acute fear of having wild elephants trample your hut and your sleeping family inside it.

The solution was an elegant and, for me, an unexpected one.

Solar lights.___1323058761

Now on nights when the elephants come near, the people of Te Okot turn on their lights and place them outside of their huts. Elephants associate light with the lights on the scopes of guns, so when they see the lights, they lumber away, leaving the people of Te Okot and their gardens safe and sound.

All of those things would be enough, more than enough, but, dear ones, this is not a story of just enough.  This is a story of Vigilante Kindness from unexpected places and of a company who shows their heart through their actions.

Last week Unite to Light sent me an email saying that there was a mix up and they’d accidentally shipped another box of 23 lights.  They gave me three choices:

  1. Return the lights and they’d reimburse me for postage.
  2. Buy the lights.
  3. Keep the lights for free and give them to an organization to distribute and then report back to Unite to Light who I gave them to and where the lights will be used.

The idea of sending the lights back broke my heart, but I didn’t have a spare $250 lying around to buy the extra 23 lights either.

Unite to Light gives generously to non-profit organizations all over the world.  We’re not a non-profit, not yet.  So I did the only thing that made sense to me, the same thing I did when I didn’t know how to get clean drinking water for Te Okot.

I told a story.

I wrote back to Unite to Light and told them the story of solar lights and elephants and the people of Te Okot.

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I told them about our little rag-tag organization, Vigilante Kindness, and that we don’t have our official non-profit status yet.  I told them that it would be an incredible gift to bring the extra lights to Te Okot in July, but that I understood completely if they couldn’t do that because of our status.

My email was forwarded to the President of Unite to Light and her response still makes me get all teary-eyed.

Hi, Alicia,

I am so excited about the work that you are doing. I have already promoted you and your website on our Facebook page. (I hope that is OK!)

Your story is so intriguing. I am glad that you will be able to take the extra lights with you and deliver them to the people in Uganda.

You are brightening lives and we thank you.

Sometimes our mistakes work out for the best. Twenty-three more lives will be positively affected with those extras.

Blessings to you for the work you are doing.

I love the line, “Sometimes our mistakes work out for the best.”  I’ll say.

23 46 solar lights for Te Okot.

23 46 solar lights that will not be fire hazards in their huts.

23 46 solar lights that won’t accidentally set their mosquito nets on fire.

23 46 solar lights that won’t require families to purchase kerosene and then breathe toxic kerosene fumes.

23 46 solar lights to keep the wild elephants at bay.

So now when the elephants of Te Okot tromp through my mind, I’ll smile and think of 46 more shining solar lights, peacefully keeping the people, the gardens, and even the wild elephants of Te Okot safe and sound.

a mother and baby in Murchison Park, adjacent to Te Okot
a mother and baby in Murchison Park, adjacent to Te Okot

Want to help bring light to people of Te Okot and the students of Northern Uganda?  Click the PayPal link below.  You could be light number 47.

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