There’s a vibrant community of over 130 000 in the Northern part of Johannesburg South Africa named Diepsloot. It was originally established as a transit camp and grew as people moved in without proper infrastructure. Unfortunately, many households in the area do not have access to power and water.

Greenpeace Africa is working with The Philile Foundation to raise awareness on access to power through the Project Sunshine. With your help, together we can raise R100 000 that will go to installing 8 solar street lights around the Diepsloot Early Childhood Development Centre. Our volunteers had a chance to get to know the development centre, the teachers, children, parents and community. They were given solar installation training then took on the task of building a biodigester for the development centre.

Hear how our young volunteers lent a hand to this empowering project.

We built a biodigester for the development centre!  

“Safety First! Although the solar panel installation and wiring was thoroughly explained to the volunteers, it was decided that for safety reasons we would not work on the actual electricity installation itself. We were tasked with building the biodigester, to feed the kitchen stove and produce fertiliser for the school vegetable garden. We were given video instructions to follow and encouraged to refer back to as needed, and gained the invaluable knowledge to repeat this project in our local communities too! We are extremely proud of our biodigester, but in truth it was so simple to make and safe too, anyone can and definitely should please try this at home.

From the 5th to the 10th of June 2017 we spent an extremely productive and rewarding week in Diepsloot, ext 12. We received training on solar panel and biodigester installation at the Diepsloot Early Childhood Development Centre. For safely, we left the solar panel installation to the experts which is still in progress.

These solar panels will supply lights to the classrooms and office, as well as power the biodigester's shredder. The biodigester will feed methane gas to the kitchen stove and the waste left over will be used to fertiliser for the school veggie garden! A simple and complete sustainable and renewable system that can and should be repeated throughout South Africa to provide much needed power and gas to all those living without.

Apart from the knowledge gained, the most rewarding experience for me was on Saturday, when Violet (the head teacher of Diepsloot Early Childhood Development Centre) flipped the light switch in the classroom we were using. When the light came on, the community members present let out a jubilant cheer, and Violet and Sunny (our contractor) shared a very happy hug that left me grinning from ear to ear.” Melanie Sember, Greenpeace volunteer.

“Spending time experiencing Diepsloot and speaking to residents about what the benefits of solar streetlights would mean to the community, I truly echo their plea, and ask that we all do what we can to make this goal a reality.” Melanie, Greenpeace volunteer

Why should you care?

“One of the reason why I joined Greenpeace Africa was to make a difference in communities, so it was with great excitement that I learnt that I could play a part in Project Sunshine. This project aims to literally brighten the future of the children in Diepsloot but also the community surrounding the centre, who don't have access to basic services such as running water, electricity, sewage and rubbish removal. 

Despite the dire circumstances the community are in, one can still find a sense of comradely vibe and an infectious spirit. Especially among the child, who will give you the biggest smile that will warm anyone's heart even on the coldest day.” Delwyn Pillay, Greenpeace Africa volunteer based in Durban.

“It was a blessing to be given the opportunity to literally light up their lives and to show our government that a brighter, greener future for all is possible! Viva Project Sunshine! Viva!” Delwyn, Greenpeace volunteer

Voice of the community

In the midst of learning about the technicalities of solar panels, my fellow volunteers and I decided to leave the creche and find community members to speak to. From those conversations, it was evident that the community members believe they will benefit from having street lights around Philile Foundation. 

The challenges we spoke about were mainly focused on the high levels of crime in the area. The fact that some people come back from work in the evening and become vulnerable to being criminal attacks, was one of the examples the community members mentioned.” Thato Mokale, Greenpeace volunteer. 

“Some even expressed not being able to help when someone is in trouble because of fear of their own lives. The few people we spoke to shared the same sentiments, that the street lights will be beneficial to the creche and surrounding areas.” Thato, Greenpeace volunteer

Background on Project Sunshine

With crimes totaling over 4000 reported incidents annually, Diepsloot is hardly the safest place for children to grow. Disturbingly, 40% of the people in this part of town have no access to electricity, while a staggering 82% do not have water in their homes. Imagine that. This is why we are partnering with The Philile Foundation to raise awareness on access to power. Together we’re raising R100 000 that will go to installing 8 solar street lights around the Diepsloot Early Childhood Development Centre.

To ensure that community members of Diepsloot take full ownership of the street lights, we are offering training so they’re able to look after them. We invite you to be part of this life changing project by making a donation. Your donation will help raise awareness about clean energy and safeguard this beautiful group of energetic children.

Help us create a safe haven for children when the streets get dark, donate now!

Blog contributors: Delwyn Pillay, Thato Mokale and Melanie Sember