Resourcefulness as a virtue in a world of power cuts

ODAM staff, if anything, are incredibly resourceful and strategic. Given the difficult fundraising environment for rural education, staff have been able to take full advantage of every rupee donated to their programming

Girls using solar lampsOne excellent example of this is how a large philanthropic organization (name withheld for this publication) donated 50 solar-powered lamps to assist the KGBV girls to do schoolwork in spite of powercuts. These devices are simple, battery-powered lamps that charge in the sunshine during the day and can provide hours of bright LED light.

The donor anticipated that each lamp would satisfy the needs of two children to do her homework at the same time. ODAM saw otherwise: the kids at the school share the lamps, doing their homework on the floor in groups, as they usually do. That means that 40 lamps remain at the KGBV school, while 10 of them have found their way over to the girls hostel…

Tiruchuli now experiences power cuts for 18 hours a day

To provide context, the power cuts in Tiruchuli have worsened significantly over the years. From having power cuts that lasted a solid block of 4 hrs per day three years ago, Tiruchuli now experiences powercuts that last approximately 18 hours per day, with electricity available at inconvenient and sporadic times.

For example, in February, power would be available between 6 and 8 am, then 1 to 3pm, then 7 to 9pm. This makes it very difficult for the organization to function- no computer, internet access, and no fans for most of the day! This gets worse during the summer season, when wealthier and urban areas use air conditioning more.Girls studying with solar lamps 2

Energy access in rural areas of Tamil Nadu is restricted for a number of reasons. First, there are more demands for power coming from urban areas. As more people are moving to cities, there is a greater need for electricity in the city. That greater pull means less access for remote rural communities.

Second, there are also local political battles in Tamil Nadu that have compromised energy access across the state. A highly controversial nuclear plant in Tirunuveli district, about a 3 hour drive away from Tiruchuli, is at the center of a big debate by public advocates seeking to ensure greater security measures at the facility.

The government-commissioned plant started construction in 2002, but, over a decade later, is still incomplete. Activists argue that, in light of Fukushima, safeguards are important to put in place before the plant opens. The government has been slow to respond to these concerns.  If the government would just be proactive and satisfy the public safety concerns about the nuclear plant, our girls may be able to do their homework at night! Until then, ODAM will just have to continue being creative and resourceful with its donations.