Redemption Song Foundation gave out mattresses to the Kalehe Batwa families after each one improved their homes with mud. The brand was “Sleep King” and our manager Charity told me that a couple of them joked that they would be sleeping like kings and queens!
This is no small thing. We last bought them mattresses a few years ago and living in mud homes, they get ruined faster than in a home you might be used to. We also handed out a bedsheet for each family getting a mattress. Mattresses are too expensive for them to afford at this time -- especially right now during the pandemic when all tourism has ceased (the country's borders are still sealed to visitors). They typically live on less than a dollar a day, and that's when they had dancing income. Now, they are getting money by selling handiwork, such as wooden mingling sticks, woven mats, and also firewood.
For the past few weeks, we have delivered food, soap and other items to the Kalehe Batwa. Other items we have provided and/or will soon provide include hand towels, hoes, storage buckets, plastic jerry cans, cups, bowls, spoons, jelly (like lotion for their skin), and toothbrushes and toothpaste. The Kalehe Batwa's sole source of income comes from tourism, and that’s temporarily gone—we aren’t sure for how long.
When it comes to helping others, RSF doesn’t skip the middle. We want to make sure that the Batwa individuals in this village receive solar lanterns, cell phones, and that the families get complete solar power systems with a solar panel, a charge controller, a rechargeable battery, and lights in every room and outside. We want to make sure that every kid in the village can read their books on rainy days and complete their homework at night — not to mention that they can eat their dinner and see it! RSF is helping give "Power to the People" — solar power!
Developing Africa in a way that does not harm the environment is incredibly important in the era of climate change. And solar power helps bring light to the Batwa's homes at night so they do not have to scrounge around looking for things with 500 shilling flashlights that break and barely work. The kids can do homework and read books. THIS IS HUGE!
Even if you grew up poor in America, you almost certainly had electricity — you had lights. With no running water, no electricity, no traditional education, and no access to their traditional source of food in the forest, the Batwa are facing extreme poverty the likes of which most people in the U.S. can't really imagine.