Commonwealth Point of Light 201. Innocent James
Innocent James, representing Tanzania, aged 30, is a social entrepreneur who founded ‘Soma’, an organisation which has made reading more accessible for over 21,000 children living in rural communities lacking electricity and other infrastructure.
Innocent first started the initiative whilst studying at university in the form of reading clubs for children, and wanted to find a way of enabling more children, particularly from remote communities with limited access to facilities, to read. He started by creating a network of mobile libraries, ‘Soma’ carts, stocked with thousands of books, which travels to schools, playgrounds and streets in Mwanza, Geita, Manyara, Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions. Innocent further realised that many children in rural areas were unable to read after school due to lack of electricity in their homes, and began designing a solar-powered bag made from 60% recycled materials which can give up to eight hours of light, and enable children to read in their homes at night after school. Innocent has now rolled out production of the bags, establishing ‘Soma Factory’, which is able to produce over 3,000 bags a month.
David Concar, UK High Commissioner in Tanzania, said:
“It is fitting that this Points of Light recipient should be responsible for bringing light into the lives of young people in Tanzania, giving them the opportunity to enjoy and learn through reading. Innocent’s commitment to his community is bringing real, lasting benefit to the lives of so many. I congratulate him on winning this award.”
“I am thankful and blessed to my team, my customers, institutions and especially ‘Twiga’ cement company who have always been the part of my social entrepreneur journey.”