"We don’t have the good medications I need, as they have to be kept cold and the nurse said they were ruined by the heat of summer. I will ask my son to walk the 12km to our village to inform his three sisters and my wife of my whereabouts. Now, it is autumn. The nights are starting to cool. We know what is awaiting us with the coming of winter."
"The chill is a living memory that motivates my wife and children to walk 25km a day up the treacherous mountain path to harvest the Teresken shrub; it’s the only thing we have to heat our homes. I’ve noticed over the last 10 years that we walk farther and farther to find it. My father told me when I was a boy that they take 100 years to get to full size. I never believed him as the largest were no higher than my knee and no wider than an arm’s length. How can something so small, that burns so quickly, take a century to grow?"
"My neighbours have more options - they’ve been drying the dung of their cow for the last three months, and have a stack as tall as me to burn for the winter. I know my kids are missing school for another season, as are most of the children in the village, but we need to work together in the warmer months to prepare for the winter. If we work extra hard, maybe we will gather enough fuel to keep the school open for some of the colder months."
What would you do if you had an extra 4 hours a day to spare? For the women of Northern Afghanistan, electricity has given them an invaluable gift: time. Time to study, time to make money, time to play with their children, or time to relax. Imagine how the story above could be different with access to electricity. Medical treatment would not be restricted to daylight hours. Advanced medical technology and refrigerated medicine storage would be readily available. Children would have more time to spend studying, both at school and in the evening. Electrical stoves and heaters would reduce the smoke pollution and respiratory disorders caused from wood fuel in the home. Ecological degradation and deforestation would diminish. Economic opportunities would improve with electrical equipment, allowing for increased production. In short, electricity is life changing.
Before the Fellowship, I lived in the Yukon and thought I had a good grasp of wilderness and extremes. I even thought I could resonate with the hardships of living without electricity or running water in a cold environment, having chosen this lifestyle in Northern Canada. But the truth is, I always had the comfort of options, be it wood for a stove, access to good quality insulation or the ability to take refuge in a nearby warm, lit café. For the people of Eastern Tajikistan and Northern Afghanistan, electricity is not only bringing them much needed light and warmth, it is giving them the freedom to have a life with options.