Not only do most children in Ghana have to spend their lives in poverty, they also have to spend 12 hours a day in darkness because so much of their country lacks access to the energy grid. This means that once they are finished with school, working on family farms, and completing household chores, there is no light left with which to study. Luckily, a nonprofit called Empower Playgrounds has built a merry-go-round that can harness the energy of children at play, channeling it into battery packs that can then be used to power LED lanterns in study areas.
As told to Fast Company, Ben Markham, who developed the merry-go-round lamp system, estimated that a healthy 8- to 12-year-old is able to produce 150 watts of energy per hour at play, of which only a small portion is needed to make nighttime studying a possibility. The equipment is affordable as well, costing about $10,000 to install. The merry-go-round would supply 200 children a year’s worth of electricity for at least five years, breaking down to about $10 per year to give a child enough light with which to study.
Thanks to sponsorship by Energizer, Empower Playgrounds is able to provide each school with up to 50 advanced LED lanterns that the children are allowed to take home with them at night. “Lantern Groups” of up to six children are also formed according to neighborhoods, and the groups are then encouraged to study together around the one lantern, which can last up to 50 hours per charge.
The nonprofit is lighting the way in more ways than one, trying to effect social change by having the girls who do go to school take on the role of “lantern leaders.” The program wants to underscore the status of an educated woman as not just a role model but a light-bringer. In a country where most families tend to send only boys to school and marry off girls as young as 15, the project creates an great example for others to follow.
Images by Empower Playgrounds