Want to contribute to change, literally? You can help Skilled Samaritan raise funds to install solar lights in a village in India. A team of highly qualified members who have left their jobs to help the much ignored communities in villages. Read their story and how they are making a difference – and how you can too!
Sirohi, a small village 40 kms. from Delhi, was one of the many villages in India where people spent a large part of their incomes in buying lamps and candles to light their houses after 6 p.m. The ladies would prepare dinner before it turned dark and children would finish their homework as they knew that post-sunset they would not be able to do anything. The villagers continued to struggle until a team of “Samaritans” lit their houses and consequently, their lives.
Founded by Gauri Agarwal, Skilled Samaritan Foundation is a social enterprise started in 2012 with an objective of lighting up the houses of those whose needs are often ignored.
Sirohi village successfully installed solar lights in 366 homes through Skilled Samaritan’s Rural Solar Electrification Project in less than a year of their incorporation. The Project was a collaborative initiative between Engineers Without Borders (India), Bechtel Corporation, students at the National Training and Power Institute, and residents of Sirohi village.
Skilled Samaritan (SS) now plans to replicate the project in 20 villages near Sirohi including Tikkeri Khera, Khoiri, Samped, Bahalgarh, Khanpur Kalan, and Vishwamitra.
Agarwal, who worked for two years in investment banking, quit her high paying job without knowing what she would do next! All she knew was that she wanted to help the community at large. She worked with IIT students in rural areas to promote tourism which gave her a little insight into the grass root problems of India and eventually, she started SS to help solve their basic problems.
“On a nippy November evening in 2013, two months after the installation of the Solar Systems at our first project site, Sirohi, I got a call from an unknown number and it was from an old lady who asked for me saying that there was no light in her area but Sirohi was the only village lit up due to the lights we had provided. She happened to be one of the oldest women in Sirohi and had walked into our local resource person’s house to get my number and pass on her message. Someone once said to me that sometimes it’s just about doing the simple things right and that’s what we do,” Agarwal says.
The team which calls itself “Monks who sold their Ferraris” consists of enthusiasts who, after working in the corporate sector for a couple of years, decided to quit and become change makers.
How it works?
The Samaritans work in collaboration with college students to conduct a need based assessment to understand the lighting requirements of a village. After evaluation of the data, they come up with the best solar solution for the community. Later on, based on the needs and their evaluation, vendors are identified and solar lights are installed.
Each Solar project costs approximately Rs.15 lakhs to Rs.20 Lakhs and the team constantly looks for donors and sponsors who could support their initiatives.
Each project starts with a pilot run of installations in 50 houses. Then sustainability and impact of the project is studied to continue the project. After a successful installation, the villagers are handed over ownership of the solar lights so that they don’t consider it as charity.
In Sirohi, to sustain the project after completion, a Village Energy Committee (VEC) was formed. At least 4 villagers, including the village headman, were among the members and the committee was guided by two volunteers from Engineers Without Borders, India (EWB-India).
It took care of commissioning of the solar project. They collected Rs. 70 per month from villagers and opened a separate bank account. The solar lights were removed from the individual’s house in case they didn’t pay the charges for two consecutive months.
Apart from lighting up lives, SS also regularly organizes Eco-Walks to fascinating villages around the Aravalis in Haryana, 40 Kms from Delhi. This way the city-dwellers get to spend time with the local community and get a first-hand experience of a village life.
“This is an initiative where we aim to introduce time-offs from the frenzied lifestyle of a 9-5 urbane regime,” the team says.
How can you help?
Skilled Samaritan is aiming to light up yet another village Khoiri, 45 kms from Delhi. All they need are funds of Rs. 1 lakh before 30th August to start the project. The funds will be used to install solar lights in 400 houses of the village.
“It’s not about asking for money, but about inviting you to be a part of our way of life. You or your company can help us by sponsoring light for a home and by LITERALLY lighting it up, by being part of the implementation process,” the Samaritans say.