lLIGHTING IT UP: Tim Collin’s family in Chinchilla was one of 300 families taking part in a new program with a focus on the forgotten children of the world during this pandemic.
lLIGHTING IT UP: Tim Collin’s family in Chinchilla was one of 300 families taking part in a new program with a focus on the forgotten children of the world during this pandemic.

Chinchilla family helping children living in energy poverty

AUSTRALIAN charities have been forced to rethink how to keep people focused on global citizenship during COVID-19.

Tim Collin’s family in Chinchilla was one of 300 families taking part in a new program with a focus on the forgotten children of the world during this pandemic.

The Origin Energy Foundation is working with SolarBuddy, an Australian charity, to improve the lives of children living in energy poverty throughout the South Pacific, South East Asia and Africa, by distributing portable solar lights made by Australian children. Around 1.4 billion people around the world live in energy poverty, exposing them to dangerous fuels and severely limiting their potential.

Designed especially for children, the SolarBuddy lights are easy to operate, carry and charge, and remove the reliance on dangerous and unsustainable sources of fuel like kerosene, diesel, wood or candles used by families living in energy poverty. The Origin Energy Foundation is a philanthropic foundation established by Origin in 2010. The SolarBuddy program complements the Foundation’s focus on education, in particular STEM education, as a pathway to a brighter future.

Origin volunteers would normally visit regional schools around the country and help children build the SolarBuddy lights, but this had to be halted due to social distancing and travel restrictions, prompting an overhaul of the program to a home-based family activity.

Ruth Lee, volunteering manager, Origin Energy Foundation shared “together with SolarBuddy, we have developed a new program that addresses all the challenges we are facing right now. Lights will continue to be built for children in energy poverty, Australian children can experience the benefits of STEM first-hand, parents are supported through the challenges of home schooling, and employees are kept engaged while working from home.”

Mr Collins, one of Origin’s Land Access team members and wife Anje, also an Origin employee, guided son Vincent through the SolarBuddy program in their own home.

Together they learnt about energy poverty and renewable energy, and then built five solar lights, and wrote letters of support, that will now be sent to children in Vanuatu.

“Having visited countries in Asia and seen first hand energy poverty, we jumped at the opportunity to participate in this program,” Mr Collins said.

“We’re all in this together, and it’s important to exercise empathy and help others where we can. Working from home during this pandemic means we have more time to spend together and this activity really helped us share and learn about how lucky we are in Australia,” Tim shared.

SolarBuddy founder and CEO Simon Doble said that with the world focused on the COVID-19 pandemic right now, the world is forgetting that silent killers like energy poverty, don’t just disappear.

“We feel a huge responsibility to continue to help those who are most vulnerable in this pandemic, the children and families living in developing countries. Their health-care systems are extremely basic, for example, Vanuatu only has six ICU beds in the entire country. In these times, SolarBuddy’s mission to lift children out of energy poverty through the gift of light is more important than ever.

“With the support of corporate partners like Origin, families now have the chance to learn, engage and discuss the global issue of energy poverty that affects so many children around the world.

“At such a time of uncertainty, there is no greater impact we can make while we are all staying home, than to help illuminate a child’s future. We encourage all families across Australia to join us by visiting www.solarbuddy.org,” Mr Doble said.

Schools in the Western Downs region interested in running a SolarBuddy session at their school in the future should contact the Origin Energy Foundation info@originfoundation.com.au.


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