Sol is 7 years old. Her name means “Sun”. And it felt like some kind of poetic justice that my first solar project as a volunteer started in a school in rural Peru with Sol, or the “Sun”, following me everywhere. She is kind, smart and beautiful, and her eyes alone will light up a whole room 4 days after I meet her, when she sees light in her classroom for the very first time. Sol’s school is in Hanchipacha, a magical and isolated area in the mountains of Pitumarca, where 70 families live off-the-grid without any kind of energy access. She goes to school with 47 other children who travel everyday up and down these defiant and magnificent mountains with a backpack full of determination to learn. And the school and its 4 devoted teachers will provide them with the only meal that some of these children will have all day. These children are real, like our own, innocent, playful and curious; they have real names, like Sol, Jimena, Daniel or Sonia, and they deserve to be able to read, and see, after they walk for miles every day to go to class.
After travelling to Lima, Cusco, and finally settling base in Checacupe, we woke up every day to a road trip to the school of Hanchipacha with a horizon of mountains made of green and blue, covered in velvet grass, and surrounded by the peaceful sound of nature, only broken by the excitement of the volunteers. We soon learn that people in these mountains live radically different than us, with almost nothing, but at the same time with abundance of what matters the most: honesty, kindness and generosity. And they soon teach us that their smiles will make us feel at home, despite the great distance that separates these mountains from our countries.
During 5 days, LUTW will lead a total of 9 volunteers from Enbridge, who have travelled to Peru from different cities in Canada, with diverse backgrounds and complementary skills; a group of professionals who will work together with one common goal: bringing solar electricity to Sol’s school and help those children have a better education. And they will succeed at doing so by engaging as a team, with integrity, taking care of each other, and sharing a bonding experience that will follow them long after this field trip has ended; A lifetime experience, that will help them embrace and be proud of a corporate culture where delivering energy access for everyone is at its core.
Geographic inequality is a fact. And these field trips serve as a catalyst for an introspective journey of gratitude and employee engagement, but also as a wakeup call for action. We are privileged, and we feel grateful, but that is not enough. What is important is that we ask ourselves: what am I going to do about it? And there is only one answer: help. Help our neighbors, our city, our global village. But help. It is our responsibility and privilege to be in a position to fight energy poverty. For being able to do that through my work, I feel challenged and honoured. And after this trip prouder than ever of our organization, our partners, and especially our team who has created in the field a safehouse where volunteers and beneficiaries speak the same language: the language of humanity and compromise to make the world a better place.
I don’t know if Sol will remember when she grows up the day that a group of international volunteers brought light to her school. I, for sure, will never forget the impact that our work had in her life and in the next generations to come. Light is just the beginning and it starts with YOUR support. THANK YOU.
Article written by Ana Robert, Director of Communications of LUTW. Ana works in the Calgary office and she is originally from Barcelona.