A small organisation making a big impact on rural communities in the Global South was the subject of the latest speaker to visit Maidenhead Rotary Club.
Natasha Wilson (pictured) is a development engineer for the Smart Villages Research Group (SVRG), an organisation that believes people in remote villages in the developing world deserve the same opportunities as everyone else.
With a focus on clean energy, it works with rural communities in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Lesotho to develop and install innovative and sustainable solutions that address specific problems or priorities, such as providing solar power to allow the cold storage of crops after harvest.
Its projects, which include mini power grids to isolated villages, also aim to have an ongoing positive social impact on the communities it works with by encouraging the growth of local businesses, education and empowering women.
Born and bred in Maidenhead, Natasha went to Newlands School and in 2013 she was chosen to go to Paris for a week as part of that year’s Maidenhead Rotary Club Youth Adventure Programme.
She studied engineering at Cambridge University and, before her current role, worked for the Cambridge Design Partnership, developing sustainable alternatives to everyday items such as plastic bottles.
Natasha found her passion for international development through working in Tanzania with the student-led Cambridge Development Initiative after graduating from University.
She said: “I decided it was time to do the job I wanted to be doing – working on community development projects.”
One of the major strengths of SVRG projects, she said, is that they are community-led.
“The first stage is to sit down with the community to find out what challenges it faces and understand their problems. It’s grounded in understanding what the community needs.”
The community is involved at every stage as the projects develop, including training on how to manage and maintain the technology – such as solar panels – to ensure long term sustainability.
Over time communities pay back the costs of the projects from the profits they generate, allowing the money to be reinvested in new projects by the SVRG to help even more people.
Thanking Natasha for her inspiring talk, club president Martin Trepte said the aims of the SVRG matched many of Rotary’s core areas of focus, such as improving hygiene, developing community businesses, encouraging education and protecting the environment.
For more details and to register online please see www.maidenheadbikeathon.co.uk
Badges are still available at Braywick Heath Nursery and will be available to purchase over the weekend at:
A 16-page guide with a map, venues, opening times and full details will be emailed to entry badge holders. A 2-page printer friendly version is also available and they can both be downloaded at www.maidenheadrotary.co.uk/open-gardens.html.
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A wonderful afternoon of fun and fellowship was enjoyed by Maidenhead Rotary Club on Sunday at its annual Presidents’ Lunch.
Members of Maidenhead Rotary Club recently planted a dozen traditional English tree saplings to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee.
A five-strong team planted the saplings, six oaks and six hornbeams, along a footpath near BCA in Burchetts Green where in time they will grow to shelter a small wildflower meadow.
The planting was organised by Rotarian Graham Brunsden and facilitated by ground staff at BCA. Helping him were Mary Spinks, Pat Moore, Amel Alariqi and club president Martin Trepte.