by Oswald M Dsouza
Daijiworld Media Network
Bangalore, Nov 1 : A kind, noble thought and an unique initiative by like minded youngsters, led by Mangalorean lad Calvin Pinto based in Bangalore and his two friends Philip Thomas and M. Kishan, is taking shape in the remote village of Odisha.
These bright, vibrant youngsters, all in the age group of 24 - 26, manage promising, hectic careers but have yet found a way to give back to the society and make a difference. Their objective is to light up the remote village of Gotiguda in Odisha and brighten the lives of the poor villagers by providing solar energy. They are doing this with the help of Mahashakti Foundation and TERI and their supportive friends across India and abroad. They have started a crowdfunding campaign on Ketto, a secure crowdfunding platform, to raise funds for the initiative. They hope that the community can support them by making a small donation at www.ket.to/happylight/
Calvin is the Strategic Alliances Manager of GrabOnRent, a product rental company in Bangalore. A graduate of SRCC, Delhi, he was an active member of Enactus and worked on its micro-finance project to help uplift Delhi’s rickshaw-puller community.
Philip is an Analyst at Zeus Strategic Management Advisors, a boutique investment bank in Delhi. A graduate from SRCC, he has strong micro-finance experience having interned with the Grameen Bank.
Kishan is a branding professional who works as the Project Manager at iOceane Branding. A graduate of Jain College, Bangalore, this project is his way of giving back to society.
These youngsters have come together and decided to do something for the society they live in. With painstaking efforts, they have come up with their wonderful, yet simple initiative - Happy Light Project Foundation. They have worked day and night during their spare time discussing ideas and visited the remote villages of faraway Odisha and gathered information on the ground reality of the plight of the poor villagers.
The project is led by the Happy Light Project Foundation, the Non-Profit Organisation founded by Calvin Pinto, Philip Thomas and M. Kishan. Happy Light Project Foundation is responsible for the overall coordination and direction of the project and have taken on the task of raising funds for it.
To ensure the operational success of the project, they have tied up with the Mahashakti Foundation and TERI, two highly credible organisations. The Mahashakti Foundation are valued on-ground partners. They will be interacting with the villagers on a regular basis. They have a rich experience of over 10 years and have worked on a variety of projects aimed towards the upliftment of Odisha’s underprivileged.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is India's leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for the sustainable development of India. TERI will be playing the role of a project mentor and will also serve as the technology advisor, leveraging on their expertise in solar energy systems.
About the Project
Village selected and their challenges -
Gotiguda, a village in the Raygada district of Odisha has been identified as a village in need of assistance. It is a small village of 16 households and although connected to the grid, receives very little electricity. The villagers depend on Dhokra metal art crafts for their livelihood and survive on a household income of only Rs. 80 to 140 per day.
The villager’s primary occupation is Dhokra metal arts crafts. They are highly skilled artisans who earn their income by selling their crafts. However, as their work requires fine detailing it is important for them to have good lighting. Unfortunately, this is their biggest challenge. Today, they rarely receive electricity and thus can work only during the hours of sunlight.
They also face another challenge - the metal craft that they create is unpolished. They do not have electricity to run a polishing machine. As such they sell unpolished craftwork at low margins to middlemen who get them polished and re-sold at significantly higher prices. If Gotiguda has access to stable electricity and a polishing machine, they can significantly increase their income and bring themselves out of poverty.
The Solution -
Happy Light Project will be setting up a solar microgrid system and lighting solutions which will help the villagers increase their working hours. Better lighting will also help them work on the fine designs more easily. The villagers will also be provided 1 polishing machine which will help them create the finished products and therefore earn more.
Benefits of the solution –
The solution will lead to the following benefits:
1. Increased working hours and product quality, leading to increased earnings
2. Reduced expenditure on kerosene, leading to savings.
3. Electricity and lighting will enable their children to study longer and the lighting makes cooking easier and safer.
4. Improved health as the reduced kerosene consumption reduces smoke.
5. It will slow down the migration of the village youngsters who are unable to work on the crafts and thus migrate to other states to work as labourers.
How the solution works -
The solution is not meant to be a stop gap solution. Nor is it meant to merely pass on benefits as a handout. The solution has been designed to empower the villagers to help themselves. The solution helps them overcome the infrastructure barrier. It is self-sustaining solution that revolves around community involvement. It works as follows:
1. The project team (Happy Light Project Foundation, Mahashakti Foundation and TERI) will set-up a solar energy micro-grid in Gotiguda. They will also supply a polishing machine.
2. The ownership of the villagers in the project is important to ensure that the project is self-sustaining. The villagers are keen to play a role in their
upliftment and have agreed to pay a token amount per household and will be providing community land for the micro-grid.
3. A village rural electrification committee will be set-up consisting of members selected by the villagers among themselves. The village electrification committee members will be trained on operating the grid and minor maintenance that may arise.
4. The committee members will collect a weekly electricity charge from each household and deposit it into a bank account created in the committee’s name. The charge collected will be lower than the amount usually spent on kerosene. This along with the increased income from the sale of products will ensure that the charge is not a burden.
5. The fund so created will grow over time and will be used for minor repairs charges, for replacing the battery after 5 years and eventually for replacing the entire microgrid after it’s life of 25 years.
Thus, the solution is built to be self-sustaining. A few electricians from nearby more developed villages will be trained to assist with basic solar micro-grid repairs and servicing.
For more details on the project, such as the project timeline, break-up of costs and more, visit www.happylightproject.com
“I am hoping that the community can chip in and help support this noble initiative by one of their own. It would be great, if members can spread the word about the project and make a small, valuable donation.” Says Calvin Pinto, the founder of this innovative project who is confident that he will receive the support from like-minded philanthropists and well-wishers, which will encourage them to initiate other projects that will uplift the downtrodden.
The initiative taken by these youngsters, their friends and relatives is a benchmark for our present-day generation. They have set an example for the modern youth. Though they themselves have ample opportunities to lead carefree lives, they have taken on the wonderful initiative to help the poor and needy. Their good work has already been appreciated by the poor and skilled village artisans as well as the village elders who are ever grateful to them.
It is envisaged that people can come together to support these youngsters on this wonderful initiative. Let us spread the word about the project and support them by making a small donation at www.ket.to/happylight/