Over the span of 10 days and with the support of 13 North American volunteers Light Up The World (LUTW) installed an off-grid solar installation in the Primary School of the annex Patahuasi, located in the district of Huanca Huanca in the Huancavelica Region. This project was carried out in conjunction with our General Volunteer Program; a program that empowers individuals to provide funding and volunteer support to better enhance the educational system of rural communities through access to renewable energy. The 2022 General Volunteer cohort consisted of 13 volunteers from Canada and the United States making the trek to Peru to install a 1600 Watts Photovoltaic Power System at an altitude of roughly 4100 meters above sea level.
Anexo de Santa Rosa de Patahuasi sits at latitude 13.0011289 and longitude 75.1531459 which allows us to find this community on a world map because of its remoteness. It is 4 hours by road from the city of Ayacucho located in the district of Huancavelica. The community is home to 60 people who are dedicated to raising livestock; including alpacas, llamas, sheeps, and other small animals. The sale of their livestock to buyers within the community and surrounding areas are many families main source of income. They are also known for their agriculture; the production of potatoes, barley, wheat and beans. The families residing in Patahuasi are self-sufficient. For other necessities they will often visit fairs in the Huanca Huanca district however due to the remoteness of their community they will often only make the trip once a month.
LUTW had assessed the chosen elementary school, Annex Patahuasi early in 2022 identifying it as a high-need school.
The school was already equipped with modern infrastructure and basic technological equipment such as tablets, printers, projectors, TV, and cell phones. With no access to energy, basic technologies do not provide the quality education necessary for the students that attend the school. No energy meant no access to the internet or any way of connection beyond the community. The infrastructure of the elementary school was divided into two classrooms, an office, a kitchen, a dining room, a teacher’s room, and restrooms for the students. This institution has two main separate buildings. One building is shared between the classrooms and the principal’s office and the other consists of the kitchen and the teacher’s room. To ensure every room had access to the battery bank the team wired the 5 small rooms. The space and the electricity consumption is always taken into account when considering the design and implementation of the system. LUTW attempts to design systems that will meet the energy needs of the community for many years using high-quality equipment to reduce the probability of failures in the future, yet avoid over-designing systems so that if a piece of equipment were to fail in the future (that falls outside of the warranty and guarantee of the equipment) the replacement cost would be accessible and affordable. LUTW also offers a 1-year guarantee on all systems installed and leaves important information about the system behind so that the community has all the details in case they choose to contract other businesses to either extend the system or replace the battery bank.
While we have so many stories to share from our team of volunteers we also had a chance to catch up with the community beneficiaries and hear some insider perspectives.
We spoke to community leaders, authorities and the sole teacher of the school and they shared their emotions over the achievement of electrification from LUTW and the direct benefit it will now provide their children.
“First of all, my name is Jaime Lucas Laime. I am the principal in charge of this educational institution of Patahuasi. In this educational institution, I have been working for almost 6 years. Daily the students are left with homework and meaningful activities to develop at home or school, but at night they do them with candles or lighters due to their lack of energy. Now we are going to be helped a lot by the electric energy that the solar panels are going to provide. The pedagogical resources that have been used in the teaching and learning of the students are unstructured materials, for example, we often use small plates, lids, tree leaves, and stones to improve the teaching of the children and as an alternative way to teach them as we can’t use our technology devices. Every challenge for a teacher in elementary education is to achieve the highest learning for each of their students, even more so in rural areas, at an altitude of 4100 meters. It is a challenge to somehow improve the important subjects in the areas of mathematics and reading comprehension, and it is only achieved with the support of parents and the support of the villagers of this community.”
Jaime shared that the only way to modernize and improve the educational system in Peru is to have access to resources that require power. Thanks to this installation they can now utilize the tools and resources they currently have at their disposal but they hope in the coming months to buy additional technological resources to support their students.
“There is nothing to be found here, such as not having light. Now with the presence of LUTW and the solar panel that they gave us, our children will be able to study better. Laptops, computers, and other forms of technology will be able to be used. Before there was nothing, and it was difficult for us. With the arrival of light, everything will be improved. Now we will be able to educate our children with the use of technology. For example, my son’s tablet did not work due to the lack of energy. I remember trying to take the tablet from place to place to charge it so my son could use it for school. Our children were forgotten. Thank you LUTW.”
As we move into the last-mile communities, our team and volunteers travel to the most remote zones of every region LUTW works in. Oftentimes these communities aren’t large in population, they are small agricultural communities. We move to power opportunities in every community no matter how big or small. Everyone deserves access to clean, affordable energy. The direct beneficiaries of this project were the school children and teachers with the ripple effect of better access to education and access to communication seen amongst every member of the community. It provides a hub for members to charge their cell phones, and attend evening community meetings, training and workshops. Light brings people together and the school becomes the center of festivities and connection.
Ireno Gala Lapa, an authority figure in the community, expressed his gratitude for our work at their educational center. He thanked us for the energy, and for the hard physical work that went into the installation. Ireno thinks the students will now study more and the community as well!
“We are very grateful on behalf of the community members. Thank you LUTW” – Ireno Gala Lapa.
We feel lucky to observe the community’s joy in receiving light. We feel proud to empower volunteers to create change and provide basic services to communities they wouldn’t normally connect with or visit. As our last volunteer project of 2022, we know it continues our goals towards the future development and education of the community. Light powers opportunity. It powers hope and possibility. The hope reflected in each one of the villagers lets us all know we’ve done a good job.