Championing Renewable Energy Access after a Stroke
ENVenture works with inspiring grassroots leaders that operate civil society organizations in rural areas in Uganda to introduce clean energy. Below is the inspiring story of Monic Rwaheeru Bigali, the Executive Director of The Champion Route Foundation who shares her personal journey of how a stroke affected her decision to work on protecting the environment.
My name is Monic Rwaheeru Bigali, Executive Director of The Champion Route foundation in Uganda. I succumbed to a stroke on August 25th, 2016 that left the left side of my body paralyzed. I feel lucky to have survived because not so many people survive strokes in my country largely due to limited information and a gap in the health care system. I lost my job seven months after the stroke and quickly realized I was on my own because many of my friends and loved ones had visibly vanished but I chose to stand tall no matter what. I was not defined by other people’s success. I chose to live a self-fulfilling life against all odds and this has been my motto until now. Joining a stroke survivors Facebook group also helped me realize that there are many millions all over the world battling stroke.
Facing this stroke, I had to search what could have caused it. I was a Geography teacher and volunteered in war torn Northern Uganda in 2015 with an incredible team that provided Rocket stoves, hay baskets and locally made solar panels made from card board aluminum foil to internally displaced persons. It was then that I learnt that carbon emissions have adverse effects on one’s health. I also worked in a major sugar factory for five years in a 24 hour operating kitchen that served 3000 people in the plantation fields (shambas). It was a highly demanding and stressful job with high carbon emissions because food was prepared on open fires.
The doctors advised me to start a more vegetarian diet after the stroke. I opted to grow these vegetables in my home backyard and I developed a passion for it later including it as a project in my foundation. My passion for environment conservation has now been brought back to ENVenture out of a partnership to supply energy saving stoves and solar lanterns to rural communities. I now celebrate every bit of health recovery achievement by calling on everyone to a zero emission world by 2030. I want to achieve this aim through The Champion Route Foundation.
The Champion Route Foundation is a Non-Governmental Voluntary organization. It was formed by a group of women environmentalists. The members of TCR are all experienced in the field of development and social economic welfare and have come together as “Champion Route” to give voluntary services without expecting monitory benefits. It has a vision of bringing the society closer to the hopeless, deprived and weaker sections of society irrespective of caste, creed, color and religion. TCR joined the ENVenture program towards the end of 2018 having received financing and capacity building to launch a clean energy enterprise.
Some of the activities of The Champion Route Foundation
To promote environment protection and advocate this to the children and youth. I believe inculcating environment conservation as a goal in the young generation will have a far reaching effect on sustainability. As quoted by World Life Federation Founder, Peter Scoot, “The conservationist’s most important task if we are to serve the earth is to educate”
Women empowerment: TCR facilitates Village Saving and Loan Association groups for the unbanked to help women access loans and improve their household incomes. The savings groups will enable women acquire energy saving cook stoves and this starts with a gradual contribution of UGX 1,000 (approximately $0.35 cents) per sitting.
Basket weaving and other craft making; As an avenue for income generation, members also save and conserve the environment because the produced bags are re-usable and substitute the use of plastic bags (locally known as kavera).
A fight against domestic violence.
Identification and solicitation for help for children with neurological challenges and other disabilities through granting education scholarships upon solicitation of necessary funding.
Future prospects of the foundation
Our plan is to incorporate the ENVenture program to create Eco centers in our areas of operation which will involve children and youth in environment awareness through recycling, art and poetry.
To create a percussion band for the children with neurological challenges to help them reach their potential through music as a therapy where the instruments also work as therapeutic instruments.
To create an eco-tourist centre for people to relax and enjoy nature.
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ENVenture is a social enterprise that is building out the ecosystem in the last mile for clean energy access through financing, capacity building and technology.