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LIGTHING UP LEARNING FOR PNG CHILDREN

All around Australia Origin volunteers and school children are coming together to make solar-powered lights for children living in energy poverty.

The portable solar-powered lights help children living without access to electricity to study when the sun goes down. In turn, Australian students learn about renewable energy, energy poverty and gain first-hand experience of the humanitarian potential of careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The lights are the brainchild of social entrepreneur Simon Doble and his Brisbane-based non-profit organisation, SolarBuddy. With ambitions to gift six million solar lights to children living in energy poverty by 2030, SolarBuddy’s focus is to educate locally to impact educational outcomes globally.

1 in 10 people globally don’t have access to modern electricity

According to the United Nations, “energy poverty condemns billions in the developing world to darkness, ill health, unfulfilled futures and repeated cycles of poverty.”

2 million children each year die from respiratory diseases caused by kerosene fumes used for lighting. The economic and environmental impacts can be catastrophic, too. Families already living below the poverty line can spend up to 40% of their income on kerosene. Emissions generated from kerosene lanterns produce more than 190 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of emissions from 38 million cars.

In developing countries, when the sun sets, so does the opportunity for the next generation to learn and build the skills needed to break the cycle of poverty.

Designed especially for children, the solar lights are easy to operate, carry and charge. Without them, the communities rely on dangerous and unsustainable sources of fuel like kerosene, diesel, wood or candles. SolarBuddy’s research reveals that children with access of the lights are studying 78% longer.

Aussie schools lighting the way

As at April 2021, more than 1,600 Origin volunteers have helped over 7,000 Australian students to become part of the solution. Together they’ve assembled thousands of solar-powered lights in schools from far north Queensland to Tasmania.

Narangba Valley State School in Brisbane was the first to participate in our program, in 2018. Principal Mrs Lorna Cogle said, “We are proud to be involved in a program which not only helps to teach students about science and engineering, but was also designed to help those in need.”

Year 6 student Heather agreed, sharing that she “felt so special that I’m in this class and able to help people overseas in Papua New Guinea who aren’t as privileged as us”.

Inspired by their work in the classroom, Origin volunteers have also assembled lights for communities closer to home, including Cape York, and for bushfire-affected areas on the NSW coast. During COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, 300 Origin employees and their families assembled lights at home together, for children in Tanzania.

Together with SolarBuddy and Australian schools, we’ve been able to positively impact more than 23,000 lives in the developing world. It’s one of the ways we’re using education to break the cycle of poverty.

If your school would like to run a SolarBuddy session, please get in touch.

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