Electricity is often taken for granted, but when schools in Ghana receive electricity, it is something they will never forget.
Empower Playgrounds Inc. is a company that has developed electricity-generating playground equipment to provide light to third-world communities using the playground equipment, smart LED lanterns and hands-on science kits. On Feb. 11, the company had a grand opening for its online store. BYU students and faculty have a long relationship with the company including installing merry-go-rounds in school playgrounds which charge lights which can be used at night in children’s homes.
Chris Owen, the executive director of EPI, said the online store will help the company bring light to the children in Ghana.
“The store will not only raise awareness of our cause, but it will also raise money to fund projects,” Owen said. “The jewelry costs $10 which is equal to the yearly cost of providing light for each student.”
The store was launched on Thomas Edison’s birthday, and Owen said this was no coincidence.
“That day had special significance because he brought light to the world,” Owen said. “Hopefully this will translate over, making the people feel like mini-Edisons by providing children with light.”
Although the store currently sells Ghanaian beads and clothing items with EPI’s logo, Owen said they are hoping to sell more products in the future.
“I am going to Ghana on Friday to pick up some African bags, which will be sold in the store soon,” Owen said. “We are also hoping to sell shoes from Africa in the future.”
Since the store opened, people have shown interest, Owen said.
“The site has quite a few hits already,” Owen said. “It takes us a while to see how much has been sold. We have sold the Ghanaian beads before at BYU and in farmers markets with a great turnout.”
Owen said EPI is making a difference in Ghana by “using fun to solve severe problems.” Since the children are excited for school, the attendance rate is increasing. Having this education will help solve greater problems because the people of Ghana have greater knowledge of how to fix problems in their country that foreigners can’t do for them.
Paul Booren, a student from Sherwood, Ore., studying political science and economics, served his mission in Ghana. Booren said he does not think EPI is helping the people in Ghana in the long run.
“I have seen that type of thing being built before,” Booren said. “Once they break down, no one is capable of fixing it.”
Booren does recognize having light at night for school children would be helpful.
“At night, we would have to do everything by candlelight,” Booren said. “Many people had to do this, or they went without. It would be huge for the kids to be able to do schoolwork at night.”
To learn more about EPI visit their website at emplay.squarespace.com.