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Solar Phone Chargers: Relief for Pastors

By John Nyadaufe, Malawi United Methodist Church Communicator

The Rev. Peter Nethulu received a solar-powered charger for this cell phone.
The Rev. Peter Nethulu received a solar-powered charger for his cell phone.

Telephone communication with the Malawi United Methodist Church will no longer be a problem as United Methodist partners at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., provided a set of solar chargers to every pastor, evangelist and conference staff member in Malawi in July 2013.

Pastors and evangelists whose homes lack electricity are using the 2.5-watt solar phone charger kits. Formerly, their phones were frequently useless because of low-power batteries.

Hesten Mbuzi, the pastor for Nsanje Circuit, said the charger is a great relief to his ministry because he has improved communication with church leaders and his congregation.

He added the chargers improve communication and provide a way to earn money by charging other people's phones. This is especially useful when he goes to areas close to the border between Malawi and Mozambique, where there is no electricity. He uses the money to support his family and ministry.

"I make MK300 ($1) a day after charging five or six phones and use the money to buy soap and other items at home, hence promoting my ministry in the circuit," said Mbuzi.

Enos Mzowa, a Bwanje Circuit pastor, expressed appreciation for the U.S. partners who recognized the need for pastors to have a power access to charge their phones frequently and reduce the cost they once paid to charge their phones.

Mzowa said the solar charger is a great relief for him because he previously traveled 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to Kasinje where hydroelectricity is available and businesses charge phones, cut hair, sell cold drinks and make flour from maize.

He agreed with Mbuzi to start a small business by charging other people's phones, earning K30 each and making at least a dollar a day to support his family.

The improved communication through cell phones will help to promote the new technology of Frontlines SMS program initiated by United Methodist Communications.

Speaking in an interview, the office manager for the Malawi United Methodist Church Conference, Hugo Ngwira, thanked United Methodist Communications and the Church of the Resurrection for their efforts to improve communication in Malawi.

Malawi is among several African countries that face challenges to generate enough electricity for the population. Only one company, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi, provides hydroelectricity to cover the population of 16 million. Massive power outages are common.

He added that with access to power source through the chargers, it is easy to communicate with all pastors and get updates on activities taking place in the conference. The solar chargers are also small fundraisers as pastors use them to earn money for their daily living.

Plans call for fast Internet service and reliable electricity at the conference office.