Let there be light

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Let there be light

Daybreak Rotary brings solar illumination to Navajos
Marklynn Whitehair, who lives in the Hardrock area of the Navajo Reservation, does some homework by the light of her family’s new solar-powered lights. When members of Durango Daybreak Rotary Club installed solar light systems in 45 remote Navajo homes, they found the workroom for craftspeople was a popular choice to allow them to work at night.
In the Hardrock area of the Navajo Reservation, Ruby Blackeddy and her son, Harry Begay, celebrate that Blackeddy is one of the chosen recipients for a solar-powered light system courtesy of the Durango Daybreak Rotary Club. Blackeddy lives with her daughter Colleen, a nurse, who gave up her life in the city to come home to take care of her mother.
From left, homeowner Martin Whitehair, guide Harry Begay and Durango Daybreak Rotary Club member Joe Choquette check out the newly installed solar-powered light in the Whitehair home. One of the adults in the family takes down the light to use as a flashlight when walking children Marklynn and Isreal Whitehair down to catch the school bus.
‘Journey to the Sky’ chronicles Nepal project

Before Durango Daybreak Rotary Club had even dreamed of its solar light project on the Navajo Reservation, eight members were planning a solar light project in a remote area of Nepal.
“We were in the faraway northwest of Nepal, a long way from Annapurna and the Everest trekking circuits,” Joe Williams wrote for a documentary about the venture, which took place in June.
The documentary, “Journey to the Sky,” created by longtime Inside Durango TV producer Rich Fletcher, is available on the Rotary Club’s Facebook page.
The target population in the Humla Province is ranked 74th out of 75 areas in the world for the worst conditions for education, sanitation, empowerment of women and the ability to earn more than subsistence wages, the group learned during its preparation.
In a collaboration with the Nepal Trust, the Rotary International Foundation and Rotary clubs from Nepal, Argentina and Ireland, their plan was to trek and install 167 solar light systems in teahouses along the route through the heart of the Himalayas.
“Being businessmen, we saw we could reduce respiratory problems and improve economic conditions in the teahouses,” Williams said. “They are dependent on dung fires and small kerosene lamps.”
The group doesn’t know how many miles they hiked, but most of the trip was straight up, down steep slopes or along cliffs with drops of thousands of feet.
“They only measure in hours,” said Walt Duhaime, who went on the trip. “That will take you six hours, they’d say. There were times we crossed active landslide fields that were still moving, others where we had to spot each other to go when we didn’t see falling rocks.”
Williams also vividly described the experience.
“Five hours of trail and nine kits installed,” he said about June 15. “It was so steep, all you could see was the rock in front of your face as you take a step up.”
The next day was 7½ hours on the trail.
“It was raining nonstop,” Williams said. “We couldn’t find a dry place to camp. We were 100 percent wet, inside and out.”
The trip was made more complicated by the fact that an extremely destructive monsoon came through the area while they were there, killing hundreds along its route in India, Nepal and Tibet. Two large groups, one of Indian pilgrims and another of Russian trekkers, were stranded by rock and mudslides, delaying the group’s departure from the high country.
But none of the hardships detracted from the value of the trip.
“The very first light we installed, the lady had a ring in her nose and a big smile,” Duhaime said, “she was putting scarves around our necks and was serving us tea. She was so elated to be getting that light.”
abutler@durangoherald.com

Information/donations

To learn more about Durango Daybreak Rotary Club and its Navajo solar light project, visit www.durangodaybreakrotary.org or the club’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/durangodaybreak.
To book a presentation about the project for your organization, call Kristi Barnett at 799-4271.
To donate to the project, checks may be sent to Durango Daybreak Rotary Club, P.O. Box 4149, Durango, CO 81302.

Let there be light

Marklynn Whitehair, who lives in the Hardrock area of the Navajo Reservation, does some homework by the light of her family’s new solar-powered lights. When members of Durango Daybreak Rotary Club installed solar light systems in 45 remote Navajo homes, they found the workroom for craftspeople was a popular choice to allow them to work at night.
In the Hardrock area of the Navajo Reservation, Ruby Blackeddy and her son, Harry Begay, celebrate that Blackeddy is one of the chosen recipients for a solar-powered light system courtesy of the Durango Daybreak Rotary Club. Blackeddy lives with her daughter Colleen, a nurse, who gave up her life in the city to come home to take care of her mother.
From left, homeowner Martin Whitehair, guide Harry Begay and Durango Daybreak Rotary Club member Joe Choquette check out the newly installed solar-powered light in the Whitehair home. One of the adults in the family takes down the light to use as a flashlight when walking children Marklynn and Isreal Whitehair down to catch the school bus.
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