The Shine Campaign community learnt with shock and sadness, that our colleague and friend Sandra Smithey passed on. It was only at the end of February this year, that we said goodbye to Sandra as she went into retirement.
Sandra Smithey had an unbreakable and passionate commitment to grassroots empowerment and energy access. This commitment informed how she viewed the world, how she carried out her work, and how she interacted with people from the World Bank to the world of philanthropy to the wide range of local, regional, national and international energy access projects that she helped fund and support throughout her career.
First and foremost, Sandra understood the transformative difference that energy access made in the lives of those at the grassroots level. She saw how energy access led to jobs, to education, to opportunities for women, to better healthcare. She had a deep and genuine appreciation for the tangible opportunities and benefits that energy access created. She never lost sight of the human dimension of energy access and she never tired of reminding us about it.
As a founding partner to the campaign and as a member of the Shine team, Sandra always (and we mean always) pressed us to think from the perspectives of women-led enterprises, local communities, Global South countries. She displayed a wonderful indignation when it came to assessing the inability or failure of major governmental and intergovernmental institutions to think from a community-centered perspective and, correspondingly, to facilitate the flow of resources to the last mile. Guided by a clear moral compass and based on her life’s work straddling community and the halls of power, Sandra had a unique ability to elevate these perspectives trenchantly and relentlessly.
Sandra also had a before-her-time understanding of the importance of a holistic approach to the energy access field. She recognized that energy access entrepreneurs needed enabling policies, finance on accessible terms, worker training, and media coverage that emphasized the interconnectedness of all of these. In her work as a funder, and at Shine, she emphasized this way of thinking, to the benefit of all. She is irreplaceable and will be missed immensely.