By Mark Napao
January 14, 2022
As tragic as it may sound, this is the reality of about 1.6 million Filipino households and around 12,000 sitios (small communities) in the country with no access to electricity. These unelectrified communities are part of the marginalized population—communities that are rural and remote with lagging economic growth. Members of these communities need to travel long distances and terrains to access social services and to buy kerosene lamps or car batteries just for light.
Consequently, more than power deficiency, the bigger problem in these areas is that the people’s hope for a better life is also dim. This is also the reason why Solar Hope was born—to provide solar, environment-friendly, and other sustainable solutions to marginalized communities across the country. The road to this advocacy, however, was not easy.
On Dec. 1, 2017, Solar Hope was founded as a positive outcome of my struggle with depression diagnosed earlier that year. Battling against my condition that nearly pushed me on the verge of giving up my life, I joined an outreach to support a Badjao community in Batangas. What I thought was an opportunity to help became, instead, an avenue for the community to help me realize my sense of purpose.
Piece by piece, I regained my passion for reaching out to other people. Today, Solar Hope is composed of a team of passionate and dedicated young professionals and students who seek to provide solar energy and sustainable solutions to marginalized communities. We empower community champions and their volunteers toward climate action through renewable energy.
Our approach is to conduct community engagement and consultation with our beneficiary communities first. Following these activities, our team will work closely with the community leaders, local teachers, and barangay officials, to develop and implement sustainable community development projects that will address the needs of their communities.
In Solar Hope, we believe that the success of every project lies in the robust collaboration of partners, volunteers, donors, and communities. Working together, combining initiatives and resources, is the key to more sustainable community development.
Solar Hope’s core project is Project Tanglaw, which is devoted to lighting homes and improving lives through solar lamps and solar home systems. Since 2017, we have adopted nine communities, lighted 1,253 homes with solar systems, empowered 1,516 beacons of hope, and avoided an estimated 185,868 kg of CO2 emissions through Tanglaw Batches 1 to 4. Our beneficiary communities are indigenous people communities located in Region IV, ranging from the mountains of Dumagats in Rizal to the farthest remote sitios of Mangyans in Occidental Mindoro. Currently, we are also providing solar and relief goods in areas in Visayas and Mindanao affected by Typhoon Odette.
Through the years, we have received many amazing stories from our Tanglaw beneficiaries and partners. One story was from Tanglaw Batch 1, wherein the locals cried when all the solar lights were lit as they never imagined their community could be that bright. Another story was from a Dumagat family that received a solar home system during the pandemic. They were very grateful not only because their children could now answer their modules at night, but also because the solar home systems enabled them to have a daily saving of P10 that was previously used to buy kerosene lamps.
These are just some inspiring feedbacks we’ve come across in doing what we do. Our work, however, is far from over. As long as there is a community without access to energy and sustainable community solutions, we in Solar Hope will continue our mission of lighting communities, changing lives, and giving hope.
To learn more about how you could become a beacon of hope, either by volunteering, sharing your skills and expertise, or sponsoring our initiatives, visit our website: www.solarhope.org.ph. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SOLARHopeMovement/.
ABOUT ELEVENTH HOUR
This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.
This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.