Giving the Gift of Light to Mbaya
By Olf Mouyaka
My name is Olf Mouyaka. Here is some background information on myself and how I discovered Luci lights.
Nine years ago my family and I were resettled to the United States as refugees in Lowell, Massachusetts. Like many other countries in Africa, civil wars and all sorts of discriminatory conditions forced us out of the Congo. As my family adjusted in Lowell, I was enrolled in school. At age 16 I started high school, four years later I went to college at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA. In May of 2016, I graduated with degrees in both International Business and French. Throughout this time I have always had one thing in mind: the fact that all I want to do with my life is help other people in need, and especially where I came from. Because I left my grandmother home (Africa) and she is one of two most important women in my life.
I always knew I wanted to bring some sort of help to my small village Mbaya, but I had no idea how or what to do in order to make this happen. Then I met Kendra Bauer, my Lowell High School English teacher and quite simply the most caring soul I have ever met in my life. As I do so often, even when I was in college I’d go back to her class and visit. One day I was telling her about my grandmother’s living conditions in a remote village in Congo, without electricity, running water and any consistent source of income. Her eyes lit up and she said: I have these beautiful solar powered lights I purchased for my house and they would be a great fit for your grandmother or anyone in the village for that matter.
So it began. I was 4 months away from making my trip home, I was originally going for my sister's wedding, but now I had another reason to go home. I wanted to take Luci lights and make my grandmother’s life a little different. Kendra set up this small donation poster and light in front of her classroom at the high school and we collected donations for Mbaya. We were able to get a total 96 lights for the village thanks to the donations from people in the Lowell Community, and the generous support from MPOWERD.
Months later I flew to Congo and brought Luci lights. I drove from Lowell, MA to Newark International Airport. Luci sat in the back with a dozen other suitcases hopefully making their way to Brazzaville and eventually into Mbaya. My family had a total of 22 suitcases to be checked in and Luci lights were one of them! We checked in and flew Ethiopian Airline. Waiting patiently for the plane to take off! I tuned out, put in some music, and said my prayer: "God keep everyone safe, be the pilot, and let everyone make it to their respective destinations.” Ten hours later we reached our first destination. Lomé, Togolese Republic. After an hour wait, we boarded our plane to the Republic of the Congo then Brazzaville.
It is now time, the excitement is building up and massive joy awaits at our last stop for the family. We will be reunited, my sister's kids get to see their grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother! My favorite! For the first time in a long time. On the plane endless selfies are being taken by the lady to my right, she is delighted. Across the hall on my left, a sandwich comes out of a plastic bag and life is good.
I see smiles everywhere, no judgments because I feel at HOME! From Lomé to Kinshasa, Brazzaville a total of 6 hours later we are home! The anticipation builds up even more, as we go through customs; we wait patiently for dad to come get us! Ten minutes later from the corner of my eye, my sister is sprinting down the hall and jumps into my dad's arms with the longest hug, tears of joy, relief, and belief. This is the great joy that is brought to you because you are finally getting to see your father 23 years later!
My Mama, and everyone else, cousins, friends, sisters, uncles etcetera giving hugs and kisses. Day one: Rest. Today is the wedding day. My oldest sister’s perfect day begins. My parents do everything they can to make the wedding both traditional and official. Two days later, my sister is the happiest girl in the world!
Luci waits in the hotel room, sits in a suitcase, covered with sweatshirts I bought for my lovely grandmother! We wait a couple of days until it's GO time, and we have to hit the road to Mbaya! Literally the worse car ride someone can ever take. The roads are terrible, and cars are cramped with people. The longest road trip I have ever taken, the anticipation builds up. Roads aren’t the best. I love to describe them by saying that “if a woman was 6 months pregnant, by the end of the trip she would have given birth already.” After a 45 minute flight to get to a closer city, Point-Noir, we then drive 8 hours from there to Dolisie. We spent about a week there, and now we start 15 hours drive home, to Mbaya.
After a few days of being home, I asked my cousin "LaPatto" to start at the very top of the village and walk all the way down the opposite end, going house by house asking women, men, children everyone, to make their way down to my house. I wanted to hand out the lights and give everyone an explanation on how to use Luci and care for it. As we set chairs up outside, people start to come in, excited and puzzled, wondering why we had asked the entire village to meet at the house. Once everyone is seated, they each get a light; my cousins and I individually show people how to use them. I let my father speak first, as he finishes he introduces me, and I get a great reception from people. I said "thank you, everyone, you might not see me often but this is home. We have now been blessed with Luci. By people who donated money so you, your children, your families can have light" as people cheered I added: “these lights bring, laughter, safety, make family gatherings more meaningful, make studying easier etc. And tonight you have changed my life because YOU have put a smile in my heart that will never disappear, I now know that I have made a difference in someone's life, so I thank you."
I had written names of all the people who donated anything to make this happen and reminded them that the names on their lights, were from the people who they probably won't ever meet, but still cared enough to donate their money and Light Up their life in so many ways with Luci!
After my explanation on use and care, people said thank you, and I told them I should be the one thanking them because I can't explain the joy they have just given me. I have always had a different perspective on life than most people do, and I do believe that the smallest things in life that make us happy are the ones worth chasing every day. Mark Twain, once said something along the lines of "the two most important days in a man’s life are both the day he was born and the day he finds out why." Today I truly feel that if helping my small village, by allowing people to see each other at night, for mothers to finally see their children go to sleep, or watch them study at night or stay up later than usual to have a laugh, etc. then I am okay with these reasons being part of the most important actions in my life. This makes June 15th the most important day in my life.