Mira comes from a remote village, fairly typical of rural villages across Nepal. As night comes, there’s maybe a little bit of solar light, some candle or oil lamp light and light from the fire in the kitchen area. Dim and limited would describe it. Mira took one of these solar lights home with her for her mother last April, and her mother was very happy with it. It’s bright, and useful where you need it. “She can take it where she needs it. She can even put it on her front,” says Mira, “Very comfortable!”
It’s a simple thing that can make a big difference. Even in Kathmandu, the capital city, the power can be off from 4 to 18 hours in the day. These lights are assembled in Bouddha, Kathmandu. The parts are imported from China (of course) but great attention is paid to the LED light and the battery. A charity called LED initially started distributing the lights in the Manaslu Region and the organisers of the Manaslu Trail Race asked if they could help on an annual basis. Of course, said Val Pitkethly, veteran climbing guide from the UK.
Over the past few years, Val and LED had made great progress delivering lights systematically household by household with PHASE Nepal. The earthquake set that back. A falling stone will smash one of these lights in a second. So start again. So this is why we’re making a campaign now. We can easily see the utility of these lights. They make life easier, and evenings safer and more productive.
Distribution is not easy though. In a village setting, it is impossible to give to some people and not others. It creates discord.
We decided to ask PHASE Nepal to advise us how we could help. They said we could, and suggested using lights as an incentive, and in this case, and incentive for pregnant women to attend an ante-natal programme. Complete the programme, learn through the process, and receive a light as a reward.
So this is what is happening. We’re trying to get 200 lights to cover that programme for a year. It’s started and doing well already.