Power Up Gambia (PUG) founder, Kathryn Cunningham sent email telling me about her initiative yesterday. i came away inspired and humbled by what this 20-something year old pre-med American senior at the University of Pennsylvania has managed to do in less than 3 years.
It all began in the summer of 2006 when Kathryn was, in her own words
"...fortunate to have the opportunity to work at a rural hospital in The Gambia, a small country in West Africa. For two months, while assisting the doctors and nurses, I witnessed a staff fully committed to providing the best possible care while hampered by the on-going problem of inadequate and unreliable electricity. Imagine a hospital with no electricity. Medical procedures take place by candelight, surgeries are limited, vaccines spoil due to limited refrigeration, infants die without incubators, surgeons scrub-in for surgery using buckets, microscopes and lab equipment lay idle. I came home from this experience, and at the age of 20, I was determined to do something.
She created Power Up Gambia as a non-profit organization through the Delaware Community Foundation to raise the necessary funds for the purchase and installation of solar panels for the Sulayman Jungkung General Hospital.
Currently, we have a twelve membered board dedicated to making this happen. We have garnered the support of a broad cross-section of our local community including; rotarians, politicians, ambassadors businessmen and women, students, parents, educators, and more. To date, we have raised $150,000 of our $300,000 goal. I am also proud to announce that in early January I returned to the hospital and witnessed the installation of the solar powered water pump – the first phase of the project. The hospital now has full-time running water.
Although proud -- and rightly so -- of these achievements, Kathryn recognizes that there is a long way to go before making electricity a reality at the hospital. But, as i wrote in my response to her message:
Overall, I am convinced that PUG is an exceptionally inspiring story of human compassion walking the talk – against many, many odds. PUG's achievements to date pretty much speak for themselves; even the mainstream media has taken notice, and stakeholders are recognizing Power Up Gambia, from the ground up. I believe it will not be long before the current trickle of funding grows into a flood, enabling PUG to realize all its objectives, and perhaps even trigger similar initiatives throughout the health sector in Gambia and beyond.
Bravo Kathryn! Keep up the good work.