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Nearly 4,000 PNG children receive the gift of light this week

Delivery of solar powered lights from school children in Australia to their “solar buddies” in PNG

From today, nearly 4,000 school children living in remote villages in PNG will start to receive their own SolarBuddy light, providing new learning opportunities for them to read and study after the sun goes down.

38 percent of children under the age of eight in Papua New Guinea can’t read or write, largely due to lack of access to lighting after dark. Without the opportunity to study, a child’s education stagnates and they are unable to develop the skills necessary to break the cycle of poverty.

More than 1,000 individual solar powered lights from the Origin Foundation will go to school students from five schools in the Morobe Province: Busamang Primary School, Laukanu Primary School, Salus Primary School, Homiya Primary School and Sabaya Primary School.

The lights are a gift from Australian school children who built them for their PNG ‘solar buddies’ with the help of volunteers from the Origin Foundation.

KTF (Kokoda Track Foundation) team members will travel for three days by boat and jungle walking, while navigating volcanos – to deliver the 1,050 lights from the Origin Foundation together with the 2,850 lights provided by Auto Desk and WWF Australia through their SolarBuddy partnership. These lights will go to children in communities affected by recent volcanos in Mount Ulawun, West New Britain and Manam Island in Madang, along with Fisherman’s Island and Rigo districts in Central Province.

With this week’s delivery, a total of 26,000 SolarBuddy lights have been provided to students in Papua New Guinea since September 2016.

Simon Doble CEO of SolarBuddy is on a mission to ensure every one of the 2.2 million children living in PNG without access to safe and reliable electricity, receive a light.

“PNG is Australia’s closest neighbour and so many families still use kerosene or firewood to light their homes which isn't safe. Energy poverty kills 4.8 million people a year - more than AIDS and malaria - and now we have the solution to end this."

Dr Genevieve Nelson, CEO Kokoda Track Foundation said that with more than 80 percent of the PNG population living in rural areas, the geographic diversity of this beautiful country means that a mere 6.3 percent of people living in remote areas have access to electricity.

“Working on the ground in PNG as in-country distribution partner to the teams at Origin and SolarBuddy, we are able to deliver lights into the hands of children in these sometimes very inaccessible regions. The associated education, safety, health and wellbeing improvements truly make for a brighter future, one light, one child at a time,” Dr Nelson said.

Origin Energy CEO, Papua New Guinea Lesieli Taviri said that it was rewarding to see the impact of the work of Australian school students and Origin volunteers.

“With the introduction of SolarBuddy lights, children in PNG are studying 78 percent longer and reliance on kerosene and other dangerous fuels has been reduced by 80 percent. Since these fuels are also the single biggest expenditure for households, that money can now be spent on food and health and education,” Mrs Taviri said.

“Since August last year, the Origin Foundation has worked with Australian students - running the SolarBuddy program with 55 schools across six States, resulting in almost 2,000 solar lights for school children living without electricity across PNG, giving them a pathway to a brighter future,” Mrs Taviri added.

Australian students from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, WA, Tasmania and South Australia, in metropolitan and regional locations, have not only built the solar powered lights, but have also learnt important lessons about renewable energy, global citizenship and the 1.4 billion people around the world who don’t have access to modern electricity.

Each ‘solar buddy’ light is also accompanied by a personalised letter for the student receiving it, written by the Australian students who built the light.

Year six school captain Allira from Valentine Public School in NSW, Australia said, “It was a great experience to learn more about how science and engineering careers can have such a positive impact in the world. It was a fun challenge to build a solar powered light and we hope that our solar buddies in PNG will be able to extend their reading and learning times with them.”

Media Statement  : Photo : Supplied

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