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A bright idea for Indonesia's tsunami survivors

Indonesia, March 22, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sara Velasquez/Mercy Corps  </span>
    A solar lamp, like those distributed to 250 families in Indonesia's tsunami-devastated Mentawai Islands, glowing at night. Photo: Sara Velasquez/Mercy Corps

Last night we spent the night at KM 37 in order to check on the families using the solar lights that we have distributed.

So far, we’ve distributed almost 250 solar lights to families in both North and South Pagai, survivors of last October's devastating tsunami here in Indonesia's remote Mentawai Islands.

The government doesn't provide electricity in displacement camps in North or South Pagai. Some sub-villages have a generator, which they occasionally use so that they can charge their mobile phones, listen to music or power up a machine when necessary.

Solar lights are a huge deal to the people here.

Every household in the sub-villages we are working in has been given one, and the people love them because:

  1. They can get power from the sun.
  2. They don’t have to pay for diesel to run the generator.
  3. Some of the solar powered lights also have phone-charging capabilities.
  4. Their children get to read, write and do homework during the evening.
  5. They don’t have to use their gas lanterns, which can explode or catch their homes on fire.
  6. There is no smell.

The lights can last four hours when the maximum light is used, and up to eight hours when the light used is on medium brightness.

Families are very happy to have them, and would really love to have three or four to light all their rooms and use simultaneously.