While education is highly valued in Vanuatu, many school children living on the outer islands are faced with the challenges of studying with inadequate, or at the very least, inconsistent, electricity in their homes.
The mission between Okeanos Vanuatu and international non-profit Solar Buddy set out to address these school children’s needs – sustainably.
SolarBuddy is an Australian charity uniting a global community with a big dream to gift six million solar lights to children living in energy poverty by 2030, to help them to study after dusk and improve their education outcomes.
“Our mission in Vanuatu is to enhance the learning opportunities of all Ni-Vanuatu children that have little or no access to light after dark by providing them with a clean, reliable bedside light,” said Solar Buddy’s Russell Gauld.
“We are also out to change the consumer mindset of the children. Our lights are designed to last approx 10 years with due care, so we ask the children not to throw it away when it stops working but take it to get checked out first at the school they received them at,” said Gauld.
Creating a sustainable future for Vanuatu is high priority for both Okeanos and Solar Buddy alike.
Solar Buddy’s first distribution with Okeanos Vanuatu began in March 2019 visiting Makira island and South West Bay, Malekula. On this trip the crew delivered 200 lights aboard the fossil fuel-free Vaka Motu that utilizes the power of wind, coconut biofuel, and yes, solar energy.
“This was a special trip as we were able to incorporate our program with Okeanos’ education program,” said Gauld. “We were able to share the gift of light and give the kids of four schools the opportunity of a lifetime taking them for a sail out to sea.”
In October 2019, Okeanos and Solar Buddy distributed lights to every island in the Shepherd islands. Approximately 1200 lights were shared around the islands of Mataso, Emae, Tongoa, Tongariki and Buninga.
In February 2020, Okeanos took the Solar Buddy Vanuatu team to Lamen Bay in Epi with 1500 lights to gift to every school in Epi.
“It’s my vision to have joint tours around Vanuatu where we gift lights and enhance exposure of Okeanos in regional Vanuatu and create demand for sustainable sea freight throughout Vanuatu,” said Gauld.
Blog post: Steven Holloway, Okeanos Foundation; all pictures: Solar Buddy; March 2020