By Gary Lloyd
Two Hewitt-Trussville High School teachers last month led a team of 15 people to Uganda to provide basic necessities such as electricity and water.
It was the inaugural overseas trip for Designs For Hope, a nonprofit organization founded by teachers Chris Bond and Matthew Michalke.
Bond called the 12-day trip “a milestone and a huge success.”
Bond and Michalke, both engineering teachers, formed the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization two years ago after realizing that 25 percent of the world’s population lacked basic electricity.
“More than an inconvenience, this means working and learning all but stop when the sun goes down,” Bond said. “Reading, washing and sewing require burning expensive fuel for light. News that could travel via radio, phone or Internet never reaches these regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, the least electrified part of the world, 70 percent of people live in the dark. Other unwired regions include parts of rural Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.”
Bicycles, however, are available in abundance in Uganda, at a 100-to-1 ratio to cars. Bond said the engineers at Designs For Hope have found a way to harness the energy spent from daily bicycle transportation to successfully charge a battery, which in turn gives light to a once dark world.
To help eradicate this problem, the design team not only created a product to store electrical energy, but also provided a reliable means to create it for people in some of the poorest countries of the world.
The design is relatively simple: Use the rotational energy of the bicycle tire to turn a generator, which then creates an electrical current that is conditioned with an electrical circuit and stored in a battery that is mounted to the bicycle. Once charged, this battery can then be taken into the home of the rider and used to power lights and radios, and to charge cell phones.
Designs For Hope carried 52 bicycle generator kits to local pastors in the surrounding area of Lira, Uganda for distribution. The kits were given to leaders of a church organization that has planted 38 churches in the once war-torn area. Designs For Hope also provided 50 water filtration kits. One kit can offer one million gallons of clean drinking water.
“This is equivalent to helping 100 people for five years,” Bond said. “The filters remove waterborne diseases such as cholera, botulism, typhoid, amoebic dysentery, E. coli, streptococcus and salmonella.
Bond said the nonprofit organization has plans for four additional trips in 2014 to India, Zambia, western Uganda/Congo and Nicaragua.
Designs For Hope is also in the field testing stages of a solar generation sustainable electricity kit, which uses a solar panel instead of a bicycle to provide electricity.
“This is a need for those who live in locations where roads/paths for bicycles have not been established and for people of poor health who do not travel by bicycle,” Bond said.
For more information, find “Designs For Hope” on Facebook or visit www.designsforhope.org.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.