Making a Difference by Nicole Doherty

Solar light bulb made out of recycled materials.

Driven by a dream to make a true difference in the world, Roey Rosenblith ’06 has taken a dramatic approach to doing so. He is living and working in Kampala, Uganda, where he is the co-founder of the renewable energy company Village Energy.

He first began his work with renewable energy while an honors student at UNCW. During an independent study with Christopher Halkides, assistant professor of chemistry, he built a homemade biodiesel reactor. This creation led Rosenblith to become the co-founder of Cape Fear Biofuels in the spring of 2005.

Following graduation, Rosenblith began to learn how he could really make his dream a reality.

“After working in Africa with the NGO (non-governmental organization) sector, I become fairly disillusioned with the practice of trying to help the developing world by begging for money and then, in essence, giving it away.”

Rosenblith said reading several books on the topic gave him a new idea of what he could do.

“All these giveaways have had a really destructive effect on the developing world in general, and on Africa in particular. Consequently, I decided that instead of starting one more charity claiming that the world would be saved if you donated to them, I would start an energy company that met a market gap,” he said. “Our goal, like many other social enterprises is to ‘do well and do good.’ ”

Installation of solar lights.

This vision led to the establishment of Village Energy in Uganda.

Rosenblith is working to provide renewable energy to millions of people throughout Uganda. Village Energy’s solar lighting systems eliminate the need for the expensive and dangerous kerosene lamps that most households use. This can reduce the amount of money the average family spends on energy from nearly 20 percent to 4 percent of their annual income, freeing money for food, school fees, crops, fertilizer and even starting a business.

One of Rosenblith former mentors at UNCW, Don Habibi, professor of philosophy and religion, describes Roey as inquisitive, bold and intellectually curious. Habibi once gave him a dollar bill to give to someone in need, thereby protecting him during his travels, a practice known as shalach mitzvah. Rosenblith gave it to a man in Uganda whose son had his name. This act may have kept him safer longer than originally anticipated. On Dec. 25, 2009, Rosenblith was on NW Flight 253 that was hijacked by a terrorist. The attempt to bring the plane down was unsuccessful and no one was hurt.

Rosenblith is continuing to work hard to make a difference in the world, starting with Uganda. His work is touching many lives and inspiring many others.