For most of us who have been privileged enough to have electricity in our homes and money in our pockets, this fact may be hard to stomach-In India about one lakh villages do not have access to electricity and in many more villages, economic difficulties render it unaffordable.
Among the many problems that lack of electricity brings with it, a crippling problem is poor availability of lights or no lights for children to study. Children may even be enrolled in schools, but if they do not have electricity, you know not much can happen with textbooks lying in the dark.
But the world’s largest volunteer-based organisation, The Art of Living has taken it upon itself to make sure, no child is left behind on the path of education because of this darkness.
The organisation is removing this darkness through its flagship Project Nanhi Kiran which was launched in November 2015 at the Art of Living International Center inspired by the founder of The Art of Living, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
As part of the project, Art of Living has provided about 1150 rechargeable solar study lights so far, of which 810 solar lights have been distributed in the remotest corners of Arunachal Pradesh(about 160 of them in Lohit District), 90 in Karnataka, 30 in Manipur, 140 in rural Bangalore near the Art of Living International Ashram.
The Art of Living through the Nanhi Kiran Project has also encouraged local entrepreneurship and youth empowerment. The organization identifies a local entrepreneur, develops a youth leader and looks for youth who want to work for this project along with wanting to be entrepreneurs. They are taught to repair these especially designed lights. He becomes the go-to person for these lights in the area. He makes a small commission on the repair as well as sales and distribution of the lights. A part of the donation made in buying these lamps, also pays the salaries and commissions for these youth.
The cost of making each light is Rs.450 and this does not include the transportation and cost of paying those who make and repair these lights. So far the project has been funded by Sri Sri Rural Development Program. The project is looking to collaborate with companies and government agencies to bring this light to more lives.
The Art of Living is looking to reach out to ten thousand children through its Nanhi Kiran Project in the most isolated and neglected corners of the country.
The implementation of Nanhi Kiran Project, especially in the far flung areas of a state like Arunachal Pradesh, has not been without its share of challenges. The Art of Living has reached out to over 10 schools in Arunachal Pradesh that lack even the basic connectivity to the other areas of the state, apart from lack of electricity, transport and basic infrastructure.
From The Horse’s Mouth
The remoteness of the region and the problem of poor accessibility is hard to imagine unless, seen through one’s own eyes. “I was working in some project for Assam, and I received a call from Tezu district, AP, saying the 60 lamps that we have sent across was waiting to be distributed,” shares Chaitanya Sangawar, Coordinator of Nanhi Kiran Project, “When I arrived there I went to a government school. The kids were from different ethnicities and economic backgrounds. They were very shy children. Some of them could not afford the light, because Rs.100 was a lot. So we collected Rs.50 from them. But, still some of the children could not afford the light. I noticed that many children did not even have slippers. We asked if there were more schools that needed help and they said, ‘Yes, but you have to go more deep to some villages, you have more than 100 students that need your support’. I was shocked, because I thought, if this is remote and this is how the people live their lives, what can be more remote than this, what kind of economic condition do they live in? The lights have to reach the children. We are planning to go to the region, but it is impossible for a regular person to go and work there. We need the help of the Indian Army, helicopters, trucks for the logistics of distribution.”
How can you help?
Anyone who is interested to buy the solar lights or support the Program can get in touch with Sri Sri Rural Development Program, in Bangalore. In order to make it feasible, the organization would need- a school with at least 100 students, the details of the school, number of the students, contact details and a local distribution person from Art of Living or someone that wishes to support this project.
Though it does not even cover the cost of making the lights, the students need to pay Rs,100. This amount is for the student, family, to value the light that he or she is buying.