Many times, we ignore to what extent we depend on electricity to perform many of our daily activities. We have grown accustomed to pressing the light switch almost automatically, as if it were a fact that light would appear before us. We embrace electricity to carry out negotiations, meetings and design strategies. Also, to enjoy our moments of leisure or to travel from one place to the other. Electrical connections are part of our daily lives and make it possible for human beings to continue moving forward. And, of course, it guarantees their survival.
Electricity and sailing
In the case of a solo-sailing skipper who competes in ocean races, access to electricity is a sine qua non condition to go out to sea. Otherwise, he or she would be taking a huge risk. Giancarlo Pedote, skipper of Prysmian Group sailing team, describes it in the following way: “Imagine you are in a car going down a hill without brakes. A boat without electricity is even worse than that.” Without power supply, the skipper is not able to set the automatic pilot system of the boat, which is essential in a solo sailing competition. “A boat without energy is an incredible force that you can՚t control,” explains the expert sailor. Just by taking a look at the huge size of the sails, it is clear that when in full navigation and without the help of the automatic pilot, it would be reckless to let go of the rudder. And Pedote must be free to carry out many of his basic activities, such as delineating his strategy and, of course, eating and sleeping.
However, the benefits of electricity go much further. It is also key to keep communication with the mainland; otherwise, the life of the skipper would be at risk. In case of a technical failure and the possible abandonment of the ship, electricity is an essential survival tool. At sea, the line between life and death can be very thin and without communication, the result could be catastrophic.
Why is access to electricity essential?
Although access to electricity is often taken for granted by a large part of the world՚s population, today there are still entire societies that either do not have energy at all or lack a constant power flow. In fact, at present, it is estimated that approximately ten million people do not have access to electricity. In countries of southern Africa, power cuts hinder the development of daily life activities and the production of small and medium enterprises that cannot have competitive prices without access to reliable modern energy. In the case of manufacturing, for example, companies are forced to spend large sums of money on diesel generators to counteract the setbacks of frequent power outages.
Having limited access to electricity or absence of an electrical installation reduces people՚s possibilities and limits the growth of entire societies. It does not matter up to what extent workers are trained: if there is not an infrastructure that allows the normal development of their activities, it is not possible for a community to prosper.
Fortunately, over time, electricity has been carried to impoverished areas to change the reality of communities affected by lack of electricity supply. One of the organizations that implements actions of this type is Electriciens sans frontières, an international NGO a registered charity, that since 1986, has been leading projects designed to give access to electricity and water for the poorest people to improve their living conditions.
Sharing electricity and development
Eight years ago, thanks to one of their projects, a group of volunteers convened by the organization installed a photovoltaic power plant in the town of Nsem, in Cameroon. In this way, a multipurpose area was equipped with electric power bringing together entrepreneurs who were dedicated to different activities, such as milling, sewing, soap making and carpentry. They also carried electricity to health centres and a community building.
The head of the medical staff of a hospital in Nsem comments on the advantages electricity brought to the whole community: “Thanks to the refrigerator, we can vaccinate every day”. Three out of fourteen districts have access to refrigeration and their hospital is one of them. “Having electrical energy allows us to treat patients who arrive at the hospital during the night and to control those who are hospitalized without any problems. These are some of the benefits of electricity that we take advantage of every day.”
Universal access to energy means building a more inclusive world, with equal opportunities for all countries to grow, and everyone to achieve his or her goals. Prysmian Group has managed to give visibility to the work of Electriciens sans frontières, leading a nautical project with their skipper, Giancarlo Pedote. The role of Prysmian Group is to make electricity accessible, laying cables around the world and connecting entire communities, people and cultures. But it also guarantees the operation of endless data networks that transmit information and knowledge to the whole world. These networks mean that professionals can continue with their training, that vaccinations and surgeries are carried out daily without interruptions, that new jobs are created and processes in companies are streamlined. For a community, having access to energy is no more and no less than an open door to knowledge and progress.
Designed for and by the people
This is how Giancarlo Pedote, Electriciens sans frontières and Prysmian Group allied to make a change in the world. Each with its contribution improves the reality of thousands of people and inspire others to make this a better, more inclusive and humane world. The three of them know what it means to work in the most difficult environments on the planet, whether breaking the dangerous waves of the high seas for months, installing power plants in areas that were once believed to be inaccessible or placing electrical wiring that crosses the ocean. And together they began a 4People journey: an open project, designed by and for people, whose goal is to inspire others to do extraordinary things, despite ruptures, unforeseen events, winds, bad weather and loneliness.
Photos: Electriciens sans frontières