Thanks to an offer from the government of Taiwan to North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, with assistance from Swindon based charity Lights for Learning and Swindon Link magazine, hundreds of young people and teachers in several African countries will have light to return home after school.
The ambassador of Taiwan Dr Lynshen Shen visited Swindonon 29 July to present 200 hand held solar powered lighting units carrying the flags of Taiwan and the United Kingdom and the words ‘Love from Taiwan’ to Lights for Learning.
Right, Dr Shen with Lights for Learning inventor Roger Mugridge holding the handheld lights with one of the Lights for Learning kits
At a reception held at Clark Holt commercial solicitors in Old Town where the ambassador also talked to business leaders about business opportunities with his country Justin explained he had attended the embassy Christmas party in December and met parliamentarians from Taiwan who discussed community work in Africa and showed off the hand held solar powered lights.
He said: “They asked me if I knew of any charities that might assist in giving them away and I immediately mentioned Lights for Learning; the Taiwanese said they would be interested in supporting them. I then contacted Swindon Link who liaised with the charity who came back with a really positive response.”
Dr Shen said he was very pleased to assist with Justin’s request. "Taiwan is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of LED lights and we have distributed some three hundred thousand of these portable solar lighting units in several African countries.This is a small contribution but we hope this could be the start of something bigger."
Lights for Learning founder Roger Mugridge said the handheld units would be a tremendous benefit to children and teachers. “Our volunteers fit solar powered lights to schools without electricity across Africa and teach local people how to do the job themselves. It means children can study after the sun has gone down.
“But where there is no electricity there are no street lights, so going to the toilet block, or walking several miles along rough tracks or roads to get home is dangerous. Children often hurt themselves falling into pot holes and run the risk of being attacked by wild animals. The handheld lights could be life savers.”
Roger added that he had tested a prototype with children on a three week trip to Zimbabwe in May. “They also found it really useful for studying after dark; three or four would cluster around a table to work together. The unit has an impressive battery life; it worked for several hours a night for eight days before recharging.”
Roger has plans to send the lights to schools in Gambia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and to Bukina Faso through another charity working in the country.
Pictured from left, lighting up in Swindon with solar power, Dr Shen with Jeremy Holt of Clark Holt Solicitors, the Mayor of Swindon cllr Nick Martin, Roger Mugridge, Justin Tomlinson MP
Following the discussion with business leaders about seeing Taiwan as the gateway for Swindon business into China, Dr Shen said he would investigate making a direct link between Lights 4 Learning and manufacturers of LEDs and solar panels.
Justin said he was exceptionally proud to have invited the ambassador to Swindon and would like to thank Dr Shen for the very generous support for Lights 4 Learning. "I very much hope this is the beginning of a long term relationship between the charity and also Swindon businesses."