Children residing in an off-grid mountain village in Balindong, Lanao Del Sur can now improve their learning capacity with solar lanterns regularly lighting their once dark classroom. Synergeia is one of the organizations in the Philippines chosen to distribute a number of Panasonic solar lanterns as part of its 100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project in celebration of the multinational corporation’s 100th anniversary.
Synergeia distributed a total 48 solar lanterns to selected towns in partner municipalities where they can be of most help to improve children’s education. We chose Balindong as among the recipients because it has community learning centers located in the far mountain villages without electricity.
Balindong Mayor Raysalam Mangondato, together with our Synergeia coordinator, hiked 3 kilometers on foot up a mountainous terrain to bring 24 solar lanterns to the learning centers of barangays Dado and Bualan. The mayor personally saw to the installation of the lamps and briefed the recipients about the source and purpose of the donation.
From left: Mayor Mangondato and company hike 3 kms. to deliver Panasonic solar lamps to a mountain village; Synergeia Coordinator Dino Aguam and the Mayor unpack a solar lamp inside the community learning center in Barangay Bualan; Residents stand outside the learning center to witness the installation of solar lamps that will benefit their children’s education. Encircled in red is the solar panel placed on top of the center’s roof.
The learning centers of these two towns previously had to use primitive light sources such as kerosene lamps, candles and “sulo” (bamboo torch) to conduct classes. The village leaders purchased rechargeable lights to lessen the risk of fire, injuries and eye damage to children. Unfortunately, they had to travel 15 kilometers to the nearest town with electricity just to recharge the lamps. They also ran the risk of getting to the town only to find that there is a power outage that commonly occurs throughout the whole province. Ordinary rechargeable lamps, therefore, proved to be a poor investment despite the village leaders’ good intentions.
Panasonic’s gift of solar lamps are the best solution to the difficult circumstances these communities face each day. “We had rechargeable lights before but they were impractical because we had to go down to the nearest village to recharge it. Now we only need the sunlight which we have all day in the mountain,” a barangay leader said in his native dialect.
From left: The old rechargeable lamps rendered useless for lack of electrical power source; Children look on while a technician installs the first solar lamp from Panasonic above the ceiling of their learning center.
The children sitting on the floor were in awe as they witnessed the solar lantern light up for the first time above the ceiling of their learning center after installation. “Magic!” they proclaimed. They cherished the knowledge that the light source they were enjoying was naturally powered by the sun. “Natutuwa ang lahat ng mga bata.” (The children are so happy), a volunteer teacher in Bualan said.
Despite the exhaustion from travelling the distance on foot, Mayor Mangondato beamed while recounting the children’s reaction to the solar lamps. “It was very rewarding when I saw the children’s happiness after the solar lanterns were turned on.” As a former educator herself, the mayor is passionate about elevating the standard of education in her municipality. However, the topography, poor economy and peace and order situation remain her biggest challenges. She is extremely grateful for the solar lantern donation and hopes for Panasonic and Synergeia’s continued support to provide additional solar lanterns to help more children in the mountain villages.
Panasonic’s 100 Thousand Lanterns Project is an initiative that began in 2013 to help resolve various social challenges faced by those living in areas with severe electrical power problems. Panasonic aims to deliver 100,000 solar lanterns to off-grid areas in Asia and Africa by 2018.