Letter from the Field
October 8, 2009
I know it’s been a while since our last post, but I promise that our silence does not mean inaction. Quite the contrary. Over the last months, a handful of exciting things have happened: we were included in a very creative and selfless fundraiser where a Bride and Groom requested Solar Lights as wedding presents; we expanded on the partnerships that were started last year; we learned that the Koraput villages where we worked in 2008 have repaid 100% of the Solar Loans; and to top it off, we sent lights to 200 more families. We also received a particularly inspiring letter from a friend who visited a village where Beyond Solar distributed lights last year. Read on…
I took a trip to Puki village this morning and one of the first things I noticed was all the solar panels charging on the tops of the huts. I got to speak to Dalimbo Khosla, one of the purchasers of your lights. He was very friendly and happy to talk to me about the light. Anyway, most of the things he reported I noticed you already have posted on your site (being able to see the insects in the food, saving money from kerosene, children reading at night, adults being able to do household works (pounding the grain) in the evening so they can all earn their daytime wages, the ability to fetch missing goats & sheep). There were, however, a few other things he discussed and a couple other observations I had that I thought I would share with you.
I wouldn’t call Dalimbo ‘elderly’, but he is definitely getting ‘up there’ in his years and he mentioned his eyesight was starting to fail him. I imagine a good optometrist is hard to find in Puki. So the brightness of the d.light lamps versus the kerosene lanterns he was using was especially valuable to him. He was laughing about how at night he couldn’t see any of the things in his home – pots, cups, rags, mats until he got his solar light (which, by the way, he has displayed in his home like a prized possession and it looks like new).
I also want to make another point – you probably gathered this already in your trips to the field but I’ve heard it enough times that I’ll mention it here anyway. In almost every village I’ve been to so far, they’ve complained about the constant kerosene shortages in addition to the spiking costs of kerosene. Many times villagers would have to face a total black-out at night when there wasn’t any kerosene available. Not to mention the rising prices taking a severe toll on their livelihoods. Now, they have a light source they can rely on…and it really does make life easier for them.
Next thing that was interesting was that they claimed to use the lights at night to gather, sing and dance. Most of the villagers are day laborers, so the village is quite empty during the daytime. Its nice to think they are able to gather together in the evenings, enjoy each other and do their cultural activities. It must strengthen the bond of the community, prolong their unique traditions and it seems to be one of their biggest life pleasures.
The last thing I asked him was if any of the villagers ever argue over the lights. He shared that there are some villagers who are angry that they didn’t buy any while you were here and that now they’ve lost their chance. They have saved the money and are very anxious to get their own lights. Dalimbo has also saved money for another light, as he would like to keep the current one inside the home, and procure another for roaming around the village at night. As I was leaving,
there were some people there from a neighboring village saying that they are upset that their village wasn’t given the opportunity to purchase the solar lights. Clearly, the word has spread and everybody wants to get in on it. Your future customers are here.
I want to say kudos to you, your partner and your donors for doing this project. I know you & I had discussions while you were here about what the impacts of the lights would be and I promised I’d get myself out there and find out. Well, I finally did and I am really blown away by the impacts of the lights. Those villages I’ve visited without the lights clearly struggle in the evening and when asked, their biggest wish is to one day have electricity. For the villages where you have
offered lights, they have made one giant (and environmentally responsible) step forward.
Oh, and in case you were wondering whether or not you should continue to raise funds, whether the lights really are making a difference, I’ve got to say a big YES! YES! YES! I know you said yourself you’re not much of a ‘do-gooder’-type person, but damn, you’ve done good.
All the best,