Kesilina, One Year On

When we first met Kesilina last year, the memory of her house fire was still fresh in her mind as she was still forced to make the choice to live in darkness or use a dangerous source of light everyday. “When we use straw fire, we feel very anxious. That’s why we still do that, but there are complaints inside our hearts.”

But not anymore. 

The journey to Mjoni Village in rural, central Malawi is bumpy and beautiful all the same, passing through protected forest lands, lush hills and valleys, and dusty trading centres. People are bustling about and children excitedly chase the cars as they pass. 

After arriving in Mjoni Village, the rest of the journey to Kesilina’s thatched roof house is on foot. Seated at the edge of the village surrounded by extensive farmlands descending into the valley below, there is a noticeable change – a small solar panel on the roof.

Kesilina and her children out front of her house. SolarAid/Chris Gagnon.

Kesilina’s smile and laugh tell a new story, the story of a brighter future.

“The day the light was switched on, I felt so good in my heart because I was able to see everything. Even if a bug was moving there, it was seen. Even outside it was bright like day but it was night.”

Her children also celebrated their new solar light.

“The children were happy. They were playing. They slept very late. They were dancing, just as they normally do as children. They were excited.”

Kesilina turns on the light in her home. SolarAid/Chris Gagnon.

With access to clean, safe light in the evening, Kesilina no longer has to choose between darkness and dangerous sources of light. With the flick of a switch, there is a sense of safety knowing that she can see what is in and around her home. 

“I see a difference, because you know that there is light, you run quickly since you are able to see. Whatever may come like a hyena, you can see it quickly. Even if it is a strange person, you can see him indeed.”

Solar light transformed Kesilina’s life overnight. From fear to safety. From darkness to light. 

“In the past, because I was alone, I used to be afraid since there was no light. Now my fears have lessened because I see the light all night long.”

Kesilina and her family outside their home in Chanje Village, rural Malawi. SolarAid/Chris Gagnon.

Just last year, Kesilina recounted the story of her tragic house fire, forcing her and her family to start over. Kesilina didn’t want to continue to burn straw fire, but she rarely had another choice. 

“We started using torches. So, whenever we don’t have money, ‘Ohh I might get stranded without batteries!’ That is when we started using straw fire again. The torchlight was insufficient. Because of inadequate money we bought a small torch that uses one battery. So how can it light the whole house? It is not enough. When we use a small torch, the battery lasts one day. A single torch battery lasts for one day.”

Luckily, this is no longer a problem for Kesilina. With her solar home system, Kesilina can feel safe while saving money, providing her family with a brighter future.

“We are able to distinguish our safety. In the past we were using straw fire, houses were burning. But now how can you burn a house since you just switch it on, why should you use straw fire, no reason. This is a good thing indeed. We are grateful indeed.”


You can light up the lives of women just like Kesilina with the flick of a switch. Give the gift of light today and together, we can make light work.