After an ICS placement supporting small businesses in Rwanda, 26-year-old Fidele Gisore was eager to do more. Now working with Challenges Worldwide, Fidele helps bring green energy and clean water to refugees.
Years of civil war and political violence in Congo and Burundi have led a staggering 170,000 refugees to flee to neighbouring Rwanda. Living in one of the country’s six main makeshift camps, people have been forced to cope without access to clean water and electricity. When Fidele Gisore, 26, visited the camps as part of a youth programme, he knew he needed to do something to help.
Determined to change things, Fidele started work on a pilot project in the Mahama refugee camp, home to over 50,000 refugees from Burundi. “A few years ago, I had visited the camps and they had so many problems that I couldn’t address them by myself. With an organisation I could do more.”
“I learnt a lot of things on ICS that I hadn’t learnt during my degree. I learnt how to do things like market analysis and how to see what problems were and then suggest solutions, many of which have been implemented.”
“I’ve since been working with Challenges Worldwide to conduct market research for their project Elpis – a water project that provides green energy for refugees.” Market research for Elpis meant meeting with refugees and asking about how they currently access water, working out the feasibility of the project and then implementing the solutions.
Designed by students at the University of Edinburgh, the Elpis water project made it possible for refugees to access clean water in the camps – crucial to keeping them in good health and to use in cooking and cleaning.
In the second phase of the project, Fidele and his colleagues distributed solar water filters which purify water using solar energy. The specially-manufactured filters make it possible for refugees to access clean drinking water, and also charge their phones via solar energy.
“We established a micro-entrepreneur model, where we employ local people to help charge their phones, allowing refugees to talk to their families in Rwanda and elsewhere.”
Fidele says that sustainability is something that we all need to be thinking about, given the pressures from climate change. “Global warming is causing a lot of problems. There are lots of problems caused by overheating and flooding which could really impact the ability of future generations to live.”
A trained civil engineer, Fidele has been interested in climate action and making people’s lives easier through the use of green technology. Working with Challenges, Fidele hopes to expand to the other camps in Rwanda. But there is another reason, he says.
“Helping refugees is a way of making them feel they are not alone and that they are welcome. There are lots of humanitarian organisations that work in the camps to help them feel they are welcome in the community. It helps the next generation – we are building.”