Giving the gift of light

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When the sun starts to set, we take it for granted that we can flick a switch and continue reading, writing or just chatting with family and friends, but the students at McAuley Catholic Primary School in Rose Bay know just how lucky we are to have that gift.

They understand it’s a privilege not everyone in the world has and wants to do something to change that. So last week they took on the Lights for Learning challenge.

Devised in collaboration with the Origin Foundation and Aussie charity SolarBuddy, the challenge works to improve the educational outcomes of children throughout the South Pacific, South East Asia and Africa, by distributing portable solar lights built by people like McAuley’s generous students.

Volunteers from the Origin Foundation appeared via Zoom to show the children how to make the lights from kits previously delivered.

Volunteers from the Origin Foundation appeared via Zoom to show the children how to make the lights from kits previously delivered.

The solar-powered lights are easy to operate, carry and charge. Without them, school students must rely on dangerous and unsustainable sources of fuel like kerosene, diesel, wood or candles to study after dark.

“It’s a really wonderful initiative,” said McAuley Principal Nicole Jones.

“For us as a school it really aligns with our values of mercy while encouraging the students to reach beyond themselves.

McAuley Catholic Primary School Principal Nicole Jones joins students building lights for students in energy poor nations.

“It’s an activity that says ‘we can all help’ and teaches the students that they can make a difference, not just at the school but anywhere in the world.”

SolarBuddy lights help children living in remote communities to study when the sun goes down, providing the opportunity for young people to use education as a means of lifting their communities out of poverty.

Results show that students are studying up to 78 per cent longer with a solar light.

“The kids see that there are simple things they take for granted like lights that a lot of people don’t have access to,” Nicole said.

“They see how other people live, and they come to understand what they’re doing and why.

“They see that these children have no lights to walk home at night, or to read or play video games and they understand that building these lights will help improve the lives of those kids.

Year 3 teacher Amy Hurley working on a solar powered light with one of her students.

“It’s a small action and it makes a huge difference.”

Last year more than 360 Origin volunteers helped almost 3,000 Australian students to assemble over 1,000 solar-powered lights in 30 schools across the country.

Aussie charity SolarBuddy has a big dream to donate six million solar lights to children living in energy poverty by the year 2030, to help those kids study after dusk and improve their education outcomes.

“Children can’t do great initiatives like this if there aren’t wonderful volunteers to run them,” Nicole said.

“They give children the opportunity to know they can make a difference which is what we’re trying to do here at the school, teaching children to be good people.”

SolarBuddy estimates that the gift of one light will impact 5 lives by creating an additional 2,190 study hours over three years, lowering carbon emissions and reducing the need for burning kerosene in impoverished countries.

Principal Nicole Jones and fellow teacher Tania Lambrosv with students showing off their completed solar lights.

For McAuley, who are donating a total of 50 lights, that’s 250 lives impacted, 109,500 study hours created over three years as well as a huge reduction in both carbon emissions and kerosene burning.

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