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He figured out a way to bring clean, affordable power to people who were off the grid.

A young technician is lighting up the lives of those who don't have electricity.

He figured out a way to bring clean, affordable power to people who were off the grid.
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Microsoft Philanthropies

Imagine what the world would look like if industrialized countries had skipped the age of fossil fuels and gone directly to solar power.

Our infrastructure, way of life, and environment would be radically different.


Image via iStock.

That’s the future 23-year-old entrepreneur George Mtemahanji envisions for his home country of Tanzania.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

Of the more than 51 million people living in Tanzania, 70% don't have electricity at all, either because they’re not connected to the energy grid, or, if they are, they still don't have electricity due to poor connections and frequent outages.

Mtemahanji knows firsthand what it's like to live without electricity.

He grew up studying by kerosene light and going to bed at 8 p.m. (the sun goes down in Tanzania at 6 pm).

"I understand very well the discomfort that people who have no electricity have," he told Upworthy via email. "I was born at night in a clinic without electricity, and so I was born with the light of the moon. My mom always told me that she had to wait [until] the next day to see me, she knew I was born healthy because I weighed nearly 4kg, but she could only see me the next morning. ... I was born and I lived without electricity and I know what it means, for this I decided to use all my knowledge to light up the lives of all those who do not have electricity."

In 2003, Mtemahanji moved to Italy with his mother and became a technician in renewable energy before going to work in Switzerland. By 2014, he’d saved up enough to return to Tanzania, where he started a business with a friend, Manuel Rolando.

The business they started is called SunSweet Solar Limited, and it has the potential to solve three major problems at the same time.

Solar power seemed to Mtemahanji and Rolando like the perfect way to resolve a few different problems simultaneously — (1) bringing electricity to people who needed it, (2) in areas that were mostly poor, and (3) without contributing to climate change.

SunSweet Solar designs, plans, and constructs solar photovoltaic systems, water pumping systems, street light systems, and off-grid lighting.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

SunSweet Solar's first contract involved installing a solar power plant at a secondary school that could run 236 lights, dozens of computers, and fans.

The project was challenging, but it was also a success, and Mtemahanji was curious to see how having electricity affected the students.

He wasn't disappointed; he says that since SunSweet Solar's installation last year, national exam performance at Benignis Girls Secondary School increased from 81% to 94%.

Mtemahanji attributes at least some of that success to the introduction of electricity.

"This result shows that studying in a serene environment where electricity is always present, can help a lot to improve the quality of education."

In addition to big projects like the Benignis school, the company sells solar kits and installs larger scale solar systems.

The plan originally was to sell solar kits capable of powering a few lightbulbs and charging a phone to individual households, but SweetSun Solar has since changed its model: nNow they install single solar systems that can satisfy the energy demands of a whole village.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

SunSweet Solar customers pay for the solar setup in installments through their phones, and it costs them about $0.13 a day. The government of the village earns 5% of the revenue to assist in the development of the village.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

In October 2015, SunSweet Solar was selected as one of the 12 best companies led by young Africans‎ by the Anzisha Prize, an award celebrating young African entrepreneurs.

Since the award, sales have skyrocketed, and SunSweet Solar now faces a new challenge: how to keep up with demand. The company gets requests from about four villages every month, each village with an average of 30 customers/houses. Mtemahanji and Rolando are currently looking for investors so that they can scale up their business.

Mtemahanji says it can be discouraging because it seems like many investors want to work with Western and Asian companies operating in Africa rather than directly with Africans.

"We must be content with the funds that we can have through the seed and prizes. But many of these funds help to support the company, not to scale up. I am confident, however, that this situation will change soon as possible, and we are ready for that moment."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less