Truest Society partnered with Stiftung Solarenergie Philippines, Fatima Credit Cooperative and Hybrid Social Solutions
In December 2015, Truest Society launched its first gift + charitable giving project, theCandles for Solar Lantern Project. In the fundraising part of the project, Truest Society promoted its first gift product, the Truest Candle. Each candle purchase contributed to the sustainable development part of the project. With the support of its CSR partners, Meralco Energy Inc. (MSERV), MERALCO, and Radiowealth Finance, as well as many generous individuals, Truest Society was able to raise funds for solar lighting.
Truest’s Candles for Solar Lantern Project started out with a modest goal of providing portable solar lanterns to families that do not have access to electricity. However, in its search for solar lanterns, Truest came across Stiftung Solarenergie Philippines (StS), which was looking for an organization to complete a partnership project. Teaming up with StS, Fatima Credit Cooperative (FCC) and Hybrid Social Solutions (HSSI) gave Truest the opportunity to help implement a solar lighting project for two communities in Palompon, Leyte. So instead of only distributing portable solar lanterns for individual use, Truest collaborated to help provide permanent solar lighting to 76 households.
This four-way partnership enabled Truest to be part of a project that created more impact for Yolanda-afflicted families. According to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the government has completed only 30% of its rehabilitation plan as of the start of 2016. More than two years post-Yolanda, many families are still not back to normal living conditions. This leaves much for non-government organizations to help deliver desperately needed rehabilitation. The partnership among StS, FCC, HSSI and Truest is grounded in alleviating this situation.
The Palompon solar lighting project achieved this by installing high quality solar-powered lighting for four rooms per household. Each partner contributed to making this project possible. Stiftung Solarenergie Philippines and Hybrid Social Solutions provided 76 NIWA HOME 400 Systems, as well as project leadership and management.
Fatima Credit Cooperative provided on the ground assistance for logistics, manpower and credit collection. Truest Society financed the verification, installation, training and monitoring processes.
Top quality, durable solar home systems
This project is remarkable in many ways. Firstly, StS made sure that the solar power systems distributed are top quality. NIWA solar home systems use the latest state-of-the art technology and have the longest lifetime in the market. They are highly energy efficient and come with environmentally friendly batteries and durable roof-installed solar panels. These are detachable, for safe keeping during days with strong winds or typhoons.
Beyond distribution- training and maintenance
Secondly, we went beyond distribution of solar lights. In all StS-led projects, it is standard practice to make sure that beneficiaries understand the equipment that they receive. Prior to installation, StS and Fatima conducted training sessions to explain how the solar home systems work and how they should be maintained. This included designating community members to take care of minor repairs. The training also emphasized that the battery will need to be replaced after three years. With the help of FCC, the recipients of the solar home systems are able to slowly save up for this cost through regular collection. After installment payments for the replacement battery, each household still ends up saving about P1,320 per year.
Due diligence in verifying recipients
Finally, and most importantly, the project applied due diligence in verifying and qualifying recipients. StS personnel conducted on the the ground inspections and interviews to make sure that receiving families comply with project targets. Beneficiary families must belong to lowest income groups. They also must reside in areas that have no access to grid distributed electricity.
For this project, the beneficiary families come from two barangays in the Municipality of Palompon, Leyte. Thirty-six families come from Barangay Cangmoya, which is an upland community with farming as the main source of livelihood. Crops include corn, palay, coconuts and vegetables. Forty families come from Barangay Baguinbin, a coastal community with fishing as the main source of income. Both barangays do not have access to the electricity grid.
Before these households received the solar home systems, they used lanterns fueled by kerosene. These not only posed health and safety hazards to families, but also came at a hefty cost to the household budgets. With the use of solar lighting, families benefit from better quality and safer indoor lighting. On top of this, they enjoy net savings in cost of fuel since they no longer need to buy kerosene.
Sharing the gift of light
Indoor lighting is truly a gift that changes lives. It is easy for many of us, who enjoy full access to electricity, to take indoor lighting for granted. There are many critical intangible benefits. At the community level, lighting reduces crime and violence, especially on young girls. It extends study hours for children, helping them improve their school performance. Better family planning is also attributed to the availability of indoor light.
After the solar lights were installed, some StS and FCC personnel paid the families a visit – at night. Usually, these families would already be sleeping by 8 o’clock because there is nothing to do in the dark. This time, they found them enjoying a family gathering. They were invited to snacks and drinks. Laughter and goodwill came for free.