Metal Artisans in Rural Odisha Now Have a Chance to Beat Poverty. With Light.

Diwali may have gone but you can still light up the lives of the Dokhra metal artisans struggling to make a living in a small village in Odisha. Help Happy Light Project electrify their households!

The recently celebrated Festival of Lights was a joyous occasion for most people across India. Diyas and fairy lights lit up people’s homes, enveloping them in warmth and light as they enjoyed the company of friends and family.

Unfortunately, after many years of Independence, there are still parts of the country that remain plunged in darkness after the sun goes down, for lack of electricity. In this scenario, Happy Light Project, a non-profit organisation, assumes significance as its young founders, Calvin Pinto, Philip Thomas and M. Kishan, are striving to spread light in the lives of the villagers of Gotiguda, a small village in Odisha, by working towards electrifying their households through a solar microgrid system.

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Gotiguda, located in the Raygada district of Odisha, has for long faced the agonizing perils of lack of electricity.

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This has left its highly skilled Dokhra metal artisans below the poverty line as they are unable to produce enough of their craft. At present, the craftsmen can work only during daytime and do not have access to polishing machinery, which forces them to sell their craft at significantly lower margins. By electrifying the village, Happy Light Project will empower the villagers to transform their lives.

To ensure successful on-ground operations, Happy Light Project has partnered with Mahashakti Foundation, an NGO with over a decade of experience working in rural Odisha.

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They have also partnered with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India’s leading sustainable development think tank, who are providing solar technology assistance. Together, they will set up a solar micro-grid, 54 house lights, three street lights, and will also provide a polishing machine to the villagers.

The project will empower the villagers to earn more as they will be able to work longer, produce more and sell higher margin polished products. It will also improve the studying conditions of their children and will reduce the villagers’ dependency and expenditure on kerosene, thereby providing a smoke free and healthier environment. The initiative will also spur a reverse migration process as the youth of Gotiguda, who had previously migrated to other states to work as labourers, will return to Gotiguda because their village will have more opportunities to offer.

A sense of community ownership is essential to the project sustainability as it enhances the responsibility of the villagers towards the project.

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Also, the purpose of the project will become self-defeating if the villagers need to depend on external help for minor maintenance. To address these issues, Happy Light Project will set up an electrification committee comprising some of the villagers. The committee members will collect a small weekly charge for plant maintenance from each village household. The charge will not be a burden as it will be less or equal to what was being spent on kerosene. The committee members will be trained to handle minor grid operations, general maintenance and peripheral repairs. For slightly bigger issues, electricians from a neighbouring town are being specially trained. For even bigger issues, Mahashakti Foundation will be available with their onsite support team.

The Gotiguda project is expected to be completed by end-December 2016, provided it doesn’t run short on its expected funding.

It envisions a well electrified Gotiguda, inhabited by healthier, empowered artisans, with the possibility of a brighter future at the dawn of 2017.

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Happy Light Project has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ketto, and in a short span of time, has raised over 85% of its goal of Rs. 8,11,100/-. If you would like to play a part in lighting up Gotiguda by making a small donation of Rs. 500 or more, you can click here – https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/happylight/. A 50% tax deduction certificate is also provided to donors.

Happy Light Project’s crowdfunding campaign ends very soon, on November 15, midnight.

(By Sreya Ann Oommen)

About the author: Sreya is a student of The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. She enjoys writing about social causes that she believes will make a difference.

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