Carnegie Mellon University
July 12, 2011

News Brief: Students Light Up African Village

By Abby Houck

Yesterday (Monday, July 11), two Carnegie Mellon students arrived in Yele, a rural village in Sierra Leone, to bring electricity to nearly 600 households.

Engineering and public policy doctoral student Paul van der Boor and rising junior economics and statistics major Tori Baggio are part of a four-member team from Project Yele that will be working in the African country through Aug. 11. They are blogging about the experience at

Cocorioko, a newspaper in Sierra Leone, reports:

"During the day, the town pulsates with life as children dash to school, traders push their goods, and drivers load their passengers to nearby Bo, Magburaka or Makeni. However at night, like many towns in Sierra Leone, the town looks like a deserted village. Apart from a few kerosene lamps, an occasional lightning, moonlight or fireflies that flicker in the dark, the town has no light. However, that is about to change, thanks to a group of young, caring, innovative, tenacious students who do not only want to research world problems in classrooms, but actually find solutions."

Van der Boor and Baggio's team is refurbishing a hydropower plant that will provide electricity not only to hundreds of households, but also to a new community bazaar. The bazaar will provide space for 16 local entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, refrigerators and clean drinking water, an area to buy and charge LED lights and Internet access for the community.

Project Yele was among five international finalists in this year's Dell Social Innovation Competition. The contest received more than 1,400 entries from college students in 85 countries.