Picture an African village at night.
It is completely dark.
Look at the continent of Europe above (pictured left); and Africa below. Notice a stark difference?
In Africa, village children struggle to study and complete their homework by candlelight. The medical clinics are closed. Emergency surgeries and nighttime births are performed by the light of a leaking kerosene lamp, held close to patients’ open wounds. And there is no refrigerator. Without proper storage, children will go without vaccines for tuberculosis, measles and other preventable diseases.
But Israel has the power to help, says the Jewish Heart for Africa, a non-profit organization that uses sustainable Israeli technologies to facilitate African development.
Since its founding in 2008, the organization has completed 23 solar projects, powering African schools, medical clinics and water pumping systems in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. They have provided 70,000 African people with electricity for education, clean water and medical care. 3,000 children have received vaccines stored in their solar powered refrigerators.
Inspiration came to Sivan Borowich Ya’ari, founder of the organization, when she learned that 92% of rural African people live without electricity. A French-Israeli Jew, Ya’ari recognized a solution to be found in the solar panels that sit atop Israeli rooftops. After graduating with a Masters in International Energy Management and Policy from Columbia University and working for the United Nations Development Program, Borowich Ya’ari launched the first Jewish Heart for Africa projects and opened a US office. The goal would be to use Israeli technologies to provide critical aid to these underdeveloped areas, while also supporting Israel’s economy and promoting a positive image of Israel internationally.
Less than two years after the organization’s founding, Jewish Heart for Africa now has offices in NY, Israel and Africa. They have welcomed onto their advisory board Former Ambassador of Zambia Isaiah Chabala, and have built strong relationships with officials from the US, UN, Africa and Israel to further promote the potential of Israeli technologies in the developing world. They have also launched a new agricultural initiative, Project Agro, that uses Israeli drip irrigation techniques to fight hunger and promote economic growth.
Powering a school or medical clinic with Israeli solar technologies costs between $5,000 and $10,000. With 23 projects completed so far, Jewish Heart for Africa plans to double its impact and expand to three new countries in 2010.
According to Borowich Ya’ari, “it takes just $20 to provide one person in Africa with energy for life.”
This year, to celebrate Hanukkah, Jewish Heart for Africa launched its first annual “Light Up Africa Hanukkah Campaign.” Jewish Heart for Africa is asking people to donate the monetary equivalent of one night of Hanukkah to give the gift of light. The webpage also affords individuals the chance to send Hanukkah e-cards to family and friends.
“For these villages in Africa,” Ya’ari explains “every day should be a festival of lights.”
To learn more about Jewish Heart for Africa or to make a donation now, visit www.jhafrica.org.