Imagine evenings without lights. Your children cannot read, write or do their homework at night! That is the everyday reality for the children of Kawainaa’isi village on the island of Malaita, Solomon Islands. People have no electricity. They rely on imported fossil fuels, such as kerosene, for basic lighting, which is too expensive for most families. People also have to carry such fuel, and other goods, on foot long distances over hills and valleys to where they live. Kwainaa’isi’s isolation in rugged mountainous terrain is the story of many villages throughout the Solomon Islands.
To help these children access solar light for their education, Rotary Club of Ashgrove The Gap partnered with Hilder Road State School (HRSS) to build solar light kits for the children of Kwainaa’isi. Solar Buddy kits were purchased from an Australian registered charity, SOLAR BUDDY, that works with local school children and others in Australia to build solar lights to gift to children in places like Cambodia, PNG, Timor Leste and Ethiopa. They run their program through their innovative school education and corporate engagement programs.
Solar buddy lights are small enough to be carried by a child, charged quickly during the day and give 6-8 hours of light. It can easily be used by a child to read or do homework at night and families to use for other purposes.
Grade 4 & 6 students of HRSS built their lights during a Solar Buddy morning last year, and wrote personal letters to their selected children in Malaita during their normal class time.
Rotarians tested each completed solar light before sending them across to Honiara with the help of an academic, Dr Dianne Fisher, from the University of Queensland. She carried the lights to Honiara as personal luggage and handed them over to the local project leader, Tommy Esau. Tommy when on Christmas leave, trekked for almost 6 hours through the Kwaio mountains, carrying the lights on his back. Lights were handed over to the children when they returned to school this year.
The pilot project was a great success. Hilder Road State School children gained considerable understanding not only about the effects energy poverty has on children in disadvantaged communities, but also a realisation of how fortunate they are here in Australia. More importantly, they learnt about the joy of making something to gift others in need, and the joy of living true to the Rotary philosophy of “service above self.”
“Students enjoyed helping other students from another country less fortunate than themselves”. “Real world STEM task -connecting solar energy and concept of energy poverty. New hands-on task experience for students[working] across our school and across cultures” – Alyssa Kimball, 4 G and Bettina Currie, 6C.
The Kwainaaísi villagers noted, (translated by Tommy): “We never thought that the words we heard about the lights will one day become a reality. Today is like a dream come true. On behalf of the Kwainaa’isi Cultural School students and the parents we would like to thank, especially, Padma, David Akin, the [HRSS] students who have made the lights for us. We thank you and we love you all from the bottom of our hearts. …We know that this is hard for us to repay…. what you have done for us. The lights will be of great benefit to us for our study and use at home. We look forward to seeing you all one day if possible.” Children in the Kainaa’isi village now have lights to do their homework, wherever they can find a spot to place their light.
Next school term, the Rotary Club of Ashgrove The Gap will work with the Interact Club of Mount St. Michael College to make and deliver around 125 solar lights. These lights will be delivered to schools on the Islands of Ranoonga and Munda with he help of Rotary Club of Honiara and the Kwaio Cultural Centre.
If you are interested in your school being involved in this Rotary initiative, please contact Dr Padma Narsey Lal through our Club’s facebook page, Rotary Ashgrove The Gap, or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org