Anyone who believes that technology used properly is a gift Providence provides to aid in the advance of the Kingdom will be wondrously impressed by what the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is doing in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Founded in France in 1804 this Community now comprises over 1600 sisters in sixteen countries. In addition to prayer, its ministries include education, social service, and health and pastoral care. Many of the sisters work in areas of developing countries where the lack of adequate infrastructure and systemic poverty drastically impede their efforts to promote human dignity.
Chief among their challenging frustrations are the lack of potable water, the absence of reliable energy, and very limited communications abilities. To address these needs at their locations in Congo and Nigeria the Sisters have
thoughtfully developed and are carefully implementing the African Photovoltaic Project (APP).
As the name suggests, the project purports to convert sunlight into energy and to store it in batteries where it will be available to purify water, provide electricity to schools and health clinics, provide computer access for email communications, to share educational resources via the Internet, and to provide refrigeration for food storage and medicines. Realizing that similar engineering projects in the developing world have failed due to lack of local ownership, poor maintenance, and the like, the Sisters make a point of tapping tested and workable technology in the United States and linking it with adequate monitoring and training at the local level.
In 2008 the first site to benefit from APP was Ngidinga in Congo where the following developmental leaps occurred: clean water was made available to the community, connections via the Internet to schools and libraries gave teachers and students new resources for learning, doctors and nurses were able to operate at night regularly with electricity and sterilized equipment, working incubators were available for pre-term babies, children were able to read after 6 p.m. with electrical light, instantaneous communication with the rest of the world via the computer was possible, and villagers began appreciating their own potential for self-improvement.
One has only to imagine what it is like to survive on water that must be boiled, electricity produced by kerosene generators, no refrigeration, no reading or operating light other that daylight, and spotty if any communications with the outside world, to appreciate how this religious Order of dedicated women founded by St. Julie Billiart two centuries ago has advanced the Kingdom.