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A nun overcomes blackouts in her area by becoming an electrician and opening a hydropower plant

Sister Alphonsine Ciza has powered a convent, a church, two schools and a clinic with her local plant in Miti, Congo.

A nun overcomes blackouts in her area by becoming an electrician and opening a hydropower plant
Image Source: Tkarera / Twitter

Sister Alphonsine Ciza lives in the town of Miti, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, due to poor last-mile coverage, the power supply in her area is scarce and unpredictable. Sister Ciza learned the tools of the electrical engineering trade so she could work on better access to electricity in Miti. Now she spends much of her day in gumboots with a team of nuns and engineers, greasing machinery and checking the dials of a generator that powers her town. Her efforts, along with the introduction of much-needed technology, have been of great relief to the inhabitants of Miti, Reuters reports.


The government of Congo has worked with foreign partners to bolster the capacity of the mineral-rich nation's dilapidated power grid. But, according to critics, the government has focused too much on powering mines and exporting electricity to neighboring countries. Hence, the nun's work as a technician is filling a wide gap in access to power. Sister Ciza first picked up the skills she needed as a young nun, repairing electrical faults around the convent. That is when her superiors took note and send her to study mechanical engineering.


"The convent needed a technician, someone who could help," Sister Ciza said in an interview. "They saw in me the talent of electrical engineering so they offered me the opportunity to go and study." Then, in the year 2015, she launched a fundraiser to build a local hydropower plant in her town after being fed up with relying on candlelight and costly fuel-powered generators. It took Sister Ciza and her convent approximately three years to gather the required $297,000 and consequently build the hydropower plant. At present, the plant can generate anywhere between 0.05 and 0.1 milliwatts.


Thanks to their efforts, students at Miti's Maendeleo secondary school can now learn computer skills from screens rather than from books. Headmistress Mweze Nsimire Gilberte shared, "Previously, power often only came on at night, when children were no longer in school. Having our own turbine has been a great relief. In addition to this, the plant powers a convent, a church, another school, and a clinic—all thanks to Sister Ciza's actions.


Estimates from the World Bank show that only around 20% of the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo has access to electricity. This is despite the fact that the country receives millions of dollars in donor funding. In this context, grassroots efforts like Sister Ciza's local hydroelectricity plant are exactly what's required.


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