Paragliders bring solar power light to community in Malawi

Canadian and Californian paragliders bring solar lights to a community in Africa

When Californian paraglider Lyndsay Nicole first set her sights on Malawi, it wasn’t with the intention of bringing light to a small community, but simply the product of her search for a new place to stretch through the skies.

Nicole and her partner Benjamin Jordan from Ontario met in the States over a mutual love for flying. Nicole, a 35-year-old mortgage banker, quit her job, got her passport and left the country for the first time last year.

She asked herself: “Where is somewhere I can take my paragliding to the next level?”

Jordan had already flew across all of Canada. He introduced Nicole to the School of Dreams, a project based in Malawi.

“Malawi has unique terrain. Flying can be quite intimidating but is so beautiful once you’re in the air,” Nicole said. “Benjamin built the first and only paragliding institution in Malawi. We invite volunteers to take local people—who would [otherwise] never be able to go—for a tandem.”

Nicole fell in love with the culture of Malawi and felt a strong desire to support the students in the community that she visited. “When you land, you’re bombarded by all these children and asking them ‘how was school today?’”

Malawi has a high dropout rate. Nicole was inspired to help—in the form of light.

“We have all these resources and we don’t have realize how important they are: running water, power, lights… it was such a stark contrast to what I’d experienced my whole life,” Nicole said.

Funded by Goal Zero, Nicole and Jordan dreamt up another use for the foldable, chargeable solar panels they already used on their expeditions.

The duo chose ten homes to bring solar panels to that specially had children in school. “The idea is to help these students be able to work on schoolwork when they get home, once the sun goes down,” Nicole said.

This initiative is explored in a five-minute video, which just debuted this week. If the program is successful in retaining students in school, Nicole hopes to bring 100 solar panels back to the village.

The School of Dreams includes a permanent building where women work repurposing old paragliders into recycled bags. Another part of the building is an internet centre full of donated iPads, which students have access to. And once again, it’s powered with solar.

“I want people to be aware of the things the School of Dreams is doing, whether people want to volunteer or donate,” Nicole said. “It’s all about inspiring youth to stay in school.”

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