12 Mar, 2019

Locals making a difference beyond Earth Hour


Earth Hour 2019 is almost upon us. This stand against climate change has grown from relatively humble beginnings in Sydney in 2007, where 2.2 million people switched off their lights for one hour, to becoming the largest environmental movement on the globe.

With catastrophic weather events increasing at an alarming rate, the sense of urgency is now shared by over 3.5 billion households and businesses in over 7,000 cities across 187 countries and territories observing Earth Hour last year.

Can simply turning your lights off for one hour here on the Sunshine Coast, at 8:30 pm on 30 March, make a difference to the over-all global picture?

The short answer to this question is “yes”, however there is so much more you can do for the environment whilst also having a real and lasting impact on people who are living in poverty who have no access to a reliable source of energy.

Energy poverty not only results in environmental damage from the billions of people who need to burn fossil fuels for lighting and cooking, it places many lives at risk.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2014), 4.3 million people, most of them women and children, die each year because of indoor air pollution caused by the simple act of cooking or reading at night.

To address the impacts of energy poverty, SolarBuddy is teaming up with local school, Good Sheppard Lutheran College Noosa, providing a sustainable solution to the energy poverty problem. Good Sheppard school students have assembled hundreds of solar powered lights that are delivered to children who live in developing countries across the globe.

Good Sheppard teacher Matthew George has high praise for his school students' selfless efforts and he relishes being a part of “a cause greater than ourselves”.

Mr George acknowledged SolarBuddy Ambassador, Skye Butcher’s efforts in firstly raising the school’s awareness of SolarBuddy and then leading the way in driving the project.

“Skye came to our school as a new student and proposed the idea. We loved it and wanted to find a way to make it work.”

“Over the past two years Skye has raised enough money to donate 200 lights to those in need. As a SolarBuddy ambassador, Skye would educate our Year 6 students about the work Solar buddy before they put the lights together.”

“The students see meaning and purpose in what they are doing which in turn creates a sense of deep satisfaction. We’re into our third year now”

Skye is a fervent believer in the adage that small things can make a significant difference and over the past three years she has educated her fellow students about the benefits of being involved with SolarBuddy.

“One SolarBuddy light can be such a life changing gift for a child living in energy poverty and can improve their health and education. Although the work I have done with SolarBuddy is only on a small scale, everything makes a difference and can impact the lives of others.”

“SolarBuddy allows you to do that in a hands-on way. Every person who builds a light with SolarBuddy gets to put it together themselves and write a letter to the child who will be receiving it.”

Skye said that spreading awareness and informing as many people as possible about the devastating effects of energy poverty was her most significant achievement with SolarBuddy.

One of the best things about SolarBuddy, is how easy it is to get involved. If you want to get your school involved, it’s simple. Sign up for the SolarBuddy school program. It costs as little as $30 for 25 lights, and along with the unassembled lights, SolarBuddy will send you all the information on how to assemble the lights as well as how to run the program. The pack even comes with a grade specific lesson plan.

Depending on your school’s location, a SolarBuddy representative may be available to assist in running programs with the students.

Skye’s involvement with SolarBuddy started in primary school, when she was at Peregian Springs State School. Her work has touched over 300 students who live in developing countries, enabling them to further their education by enabling them to continue to study after the sun has gone down.

“Solar Buddy is such an amazing program and it has opened my eyes to issues I wasn’t aware existed and the satisfaction you feel from working with Solar Buddy is truly sensational.”

Watch SolarBuddy on ABC’s Behind The News

SolarBuddy also has programs for individuals, corporations and any sized in between. This link will take you to the page where you can choose which program is right for you.

Local graphic designer Tiam Whitfield is a perfect example of how a local small business can get involved in this great program and do some amazing work for people less fortunate than us.

“Recently we went to Madagascar to deliver SolarBuddy lights to schools and communities. Madagascar has a population bigger than Australia and only 13% of the country have access to power and lighting. That number drops to 8% in rural areas, where 80% of the people live.”

“To see and truly understand the impact that access to clean, reliable light can have on people’s everyday lives will stay with me forever.”

Tiam has worked up with SolarBuddy founder, Simon Doble since 2015 and is adamant he will only work with ethical businesses, “Knowing that the design work that I am producing is contributing to improve people’s lives is massively rewarding… Plus, Simon is a good bloke!”

How are you going to observe Earth Hour this year?

To get involved in Earth Hour, visit: www.earthhour.org.au/Get-InvolvedTo find out more about SolarBuddy, visit: solarbuddy.org

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A local government partnership initiative