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Electricity Finally Arrived in Kivumu!
Monday, 15 August 2011 Written by fra Ivica Perić

Electricity Finally Arrived in Kivumu!Believe it or not, the day has finally come. We are witnessing a historical moment for  Kivumu. Electricity came to the village! Who would’ve guessed! Just three months earlier, while I was inspecting the wooden poles lying on the ground, I thought it would just be one of those numerous ‘empty’ promises made to the locals.

This time I was wrong. In the end, the promise was kept. The poles were elevated, wires stretched, and a transformer was brought in as well. And now our village is alight!

It’s an incredible feeling. I wonder how it will all reflect on living in our village of Kivumu. You see, the days here are quite short. Dawn arrives around 6 AM, and the sun already sets a couple of minutes after 6 PM. After sunset, the usual flurry of activity in the village simply disappears. What will it look like now?!

I too will find it hard to adapt to the - for us locals - “luminous wonder”, because ever since I arrived as a missionary here in Africa 21 years ago, I’ve been living without electricity. This is something completely new for all of us here. A new beginning for Kivumu. Flashlights, lamps and candles will from now on only serve as an alternative.

I must admit that, when in the evening hours, I step out in front of the friary, I find myself somewhat taken aback by the lights on the surrounding hills. The thick darkness that used to reign over those hills is no more. Now even the stars can’t be seen so well as before. Kivumu now features some totally new nocturnal silhouettes, too.

Given that the village population is mostly poor, the authorities helped them a lot. The connection to the power line cost around 100 dollars per household, but they were offered the possibility to pay it off in dozens of payments, over a period of several years, and without any interest.

Everything was thought of. No one will be able to spend the electricity that he won’t be able to pay. It will be charged in advance. Therefore, it’s similar to the cell-phone “top-up” system. The amount you pay in advance is the amount that you end up spending. And that’s good, because debt accumulation will be put in check. How much you have is how much you ‘stretch’.

We reckoned that electricity would sooner or later find its way to our parish. That’s why, already last year, we decided to introduce a new one-year course in our vocational school: for electricians. A lot of people found it ridiculous. They wanted to know what use we had of an electricians’ section, when there was no electricity in the parish. They got their answer! Now those children of ours, who completed the one-year electricians’ training, have plenty of work at hand.

The arrival of electricity in Kivumu will simplify our work in the school, especially in the electricians’ section. We had to come up with real miracles for their practical lessons. In order to demonstrate basic electrical power handling to them, we had to power up our generators quite often. First we had to teach them in general what electricity was, where it came from, how much of it one needed in everyday life, how dangerous it was, and all that you were able to do with it.

People in our parish are jobless, they are hungry, but they do have cell phones! That’s just one of the numerous contrasts in this part of the world, where people, although poor, try to keep up with the modern world. Not long ago, when friends of mine were paying me a visit, they asked in surprise: ‘But where do all these people, who have cell phones, and don’t have electricity in their homes, charge their batteries?!'

I took them to the local market, which in Kivumu takes place every Thursday, and showed the local entrepreneurs to them. Lately, due to the fact that the number of people owning a cell phone constantly keeps rising, they have been earning quite a lot by renting their - of all things - car batteries!They came up with the idea and invested money in car batteries. They mounted them on their bikes and started offering their services to the people in the village and in the market who needed to charge their phones... for a certain fee, of course. They are probably the only ones who were not happy with the arrival of the electricity in the village of Kivumu...!

Translated by: Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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