Tuesday 25 January 2011

Solar sisters in Sri Lanka

Being one of two guests being welcomed by an elaborate ceremony with several hours of performances by all the different classes in the school, followed by a feast of local food with all of the teachers of the school was slightly overwhelming! But I suppose it illustrates how much benefit we were bringing to their village.

Through a brilliant little NGO - the Himalayan Light Foundation* - we were installing solar panels on to a school in the Sinharaja region of Sri Lanka as part of their solar sisters project. This would allow school lessons to continue outside of daylight hours, as currently they had no lights at all in their classrooms.

As I have found, unfortunately, often happens with foreign volunteering we were mostly there for funding the project - paying for the solar panel systems as well as the cost of our trip. However, we were given a days training in installing solar panels and I did help the Sri Lankan technician who was doing most of the work to put a few light switches together!

We were staying with a local family for a week and, besides a few excursions to tea factories and local reserves, we spent most of our time hanging out at the school with all of the children and playing cricket, which they were considerably better at than us!! It was definitely a fairly basic existence and we were staying with one of the better off families in the village. They cooked over an open fire in the kitchen, we washed using water from the tanks out the back and the WC was an experience complete with giant spiders! However, as Jon said yesterday they were all very happy and positive, much more so than most people I know in the UK, and we very much enjoyed our stay with them. I hope that our gift of solar power has helped their village school. I definitely feel that it is one of the main potential benefits of solar power, in providing a small amount of electricity in otherwise very remote areas. It also does highlight for me how little electricity we really need to use and it makes our lifestyles look horribly wasteful.

*More information on the Himalayan Light Foundation can be found here http://www.hlf.org.np/. They can be challenging to get in contact with, but do persist as they are lovely people!

Photos: banner of the welcome ceremony, me fitting a light switch, Sally playing very scenic cricket, Asoka in her kitchen cooking over an open fire.

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