By Emiko Perea
Burai stood in the doorway of a wooden hut, urgently calling for her daughter to come home, not wanting to waste the limited daylight they had left. Everything needed to be done before the sun sets. After her daughter comes home, Burai helps her pack her books for school and lays out prepared dishes for dinner. The sun is going down quickly. The family sits in a circle around the table for dinner. A single flashlight lays on the table, providing the only source of light during the meal. After they finish eating, there is nothing they can do but to go straight to bed.
Kampung Sion is a village in Malaysia without access to electricity and plumbing and a 10-minute drive away from town. While other places in the world use electricity daily for lightning, charging devices, entertainment, and other daily conveniences, only a few homes in this village own generators to power appliances.
Generator prices range from 1,500 to 3,000 ringgits (RM) depending on its horsepower. The fuel needed to keep it running for three hours a day costs up to RM5. On top of that, the motor oil costs RM15 per week to refill. Using a generator a few hours a day will cost a family between RM150 to RM200 a month for electricity. The 45 families in the village make livings as contract workers, laborers, and farmers and can’t afford to use electricity regularly. Instead, poorer families use kerosene lamps, candles, and car batteries.
This all changed when Global Peace Foundation installed solar technology for 39 homes in Sion in March of this year. The “Solar for Sion” project sprung up from the All-Lights Village initiative with the aim to enhance the livelihoods of underserved communities by providing sustainable solar technology. So far, the project has given 834 people in 16 villages access to sustainable solar energy. Switching to solar energy has saved up to RM200 a month for families that previously relied on generators.
“We spend more than RM100 a month on diesel to power our generator. We only turn it on for five nights a week, from 6.30pm to 11pm, for lighting and to watch TV,” said Talap, a man who recently had solar technology installed from the project. “Sometimes, when it gets too hot during the day, we turn on the generator for a while to power the fan. But only for a short time as we have to save fuel.” As a dialysis patient, saving RM100 a month made a significant difference for Talap. After being diagnosed with kidney failure, he’s been out of work and relied on welfare and Social Security Organization (SOCSO) for his living and medical expenses. Talap expressed gratitude for Solar for Sion project easing his family’s worries. He said, “Betul-betul senang hati saya sekarang (I feel very relieved).”
Aida and her family also live in the village. Her husband works as a laborer in construction, while she takes on odd jobs to support her family. After their generator broke down, her family used oil lamps at night. Her two sons could only do their homework beside a dim oil lamp at night. Aida said, “Sometimes I use my phone’s flashlight to shine on their books while they read. But, then the battery runs out and I can’t even charge it without electricity.” After she switched to a solar system with support from Global Peace Foundation, one fluorescent tube was enough to comfortably light up the room for her boys to study and even watch TV afterward as a reward. She managed to save RM100 within two months and plans to buy a fan for her home with the money she saved.
The Solar for Sion project is made possible by our sponsor, YTL Power. Special thanks to our technical partner, SolarNRJ, for lending their expertise and on-site support.
All-Lights village serves communities in Malaysia, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and others around the world.
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