Every so often, you may be lucky enough to do something that really makes a difference and has a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. Recently the CEO of Ecovantage, Bruce Easton, returned from being involved in the ‘Light Up East Timor’ project organised by the Alternative Technology Association (Renew).
As part of the project, a small group contributed financially and physically to install lighting kits in a small village in the hills of central East Timor. The kits consisted of a 30w solar panel, a small battery (about half the size of a car battery), cables and leads, a small rechargeable torch and 4 LED lights – all run on DC and all very energy efficient! Ecovantage wouldn’t have it any other way!
These kits were installed into 65 houses which previously had no electricity. In fact, these houses are more like huts and generally have dirt floors, thatch or tin roofs, bamboo or thatch walls and chooks running around. Not to mention free-range dogs, goats and the occasional pig. And yet, not only are these people happy but they are amazingly generous. Their kids come out of these huts ready for school each morning looking clean, bright and enthusiastic!
The ATA has been running these tours for a number of years and has installed similar kits in many houses as well as in schools and medical centres in remote areas all over Timor. Beyond the obvious and significant benefit of providing light for these people, the programs also support locals like Julio and Asjoni (pictured here) with jobs and experience in the solar industry.
Whilst Julio has attended the equivalent of our TAFE college near Dili and is certified, Asjoni is local to the village and has been trained up in installation and maintenance on the job. He is one of two locals who will now have the job to keep the systems running and will be able to troubleshoot or modify the systems into the future. Given that Maluru, the village, is beyond Quelicai and some 5 hours from Dili, even from a purely logistical perspective, local support is very important to this program.
Whilst in the village the volunteers visited the local primary school (top photo), which has two sessions of children per day as 70% of the 1.2 million East Timorese are below the age of 32. The tour continued after the solar installs, bouncing along the rocky, dusty roads east to Jaco via Bacou and finished back in the craziness of Dili. A couple of the volunteers took the opportunity to spend a few days in paradise at Atauro Island, where snorkelling on the beautiful reef is highly recommended.
When asked about his time in East Timor Bruce said “I have never met a happier and more lovely people than the Timorese. My thanks to the ATA for giving me the opportunity to meet them and help them! In short – I loved it. If you ever get the opportunity to do something like this, take it! We’re always striving to make a positive contribution to people and the planet!”