Laos: Our First Lantern Donations Here Improve the Learning Environment
2015.04.02 Field Report
In mid-February 2015, we donated 2,376 solar lanterns to the Philippines. They will be used for educational and health-related activities by NGOs that provide support in remote areas off the electrical grid.
This is Akira Hoshi of the CSR & Citizenship Group.
In mid-February 2015, Panasonic donated a total of 2,376 solar lanterns to 18 organizations in the Philippines.
Though we have already donated solar lanterns twice to the Philippines, those times it was as emergency support to hurricane victims. This new donation was the first time they were donated, under the objective of 100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project, to improve the lives of people in areas without electricity.
Widespread economic inequality lies in the shadow of the Philippines' steady economic growth, and in addition to the many slums in ever-growing cities, poverty has left remote areas lagging behind. Additionally, frequent hurricanes and earthquakes have made the Philippines one of the world's most vulnerable countries to natural disasters.
The country ranks first or second for the most expensive electricity prices in Asia, although blackouts occur frequently even in urban areas. According to the latest data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), 28.7 million people in the Philippines live without access to electricity, the majority living in mountainous areas or on remote islands.
After receiving requests for solar lantern donations from multiple organizations in the Philippines, we conducted research last summer and discovered the enormous need for electricity in areas without electricity. Hence, we decided to move forward with solar lantern donations there to help solve the various issues that people in off-grid areas face.
On February 17, a donation ceremony was held in the capital city of Manila. Interest was high among locals and the event was attended by about 70 people, including representatives from recipient organizations, officials from the government of the Philippines and the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, and the media. The ceremony was reported on television and in newspapers.
The recommendations and selection of recipient organizations were supported in part by the Japan-Philippines NGO Network (JPN) and the Philippines-Japan NGO Partnership (PJP). We worked particularly closely with Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), which is the PJP Secretariat, and asked CODE-NGO Executive Director, Mr. Sixto Donato C. Macasaet to give a speech at the ceremony.
This was the first time that we donated through an "open recruitment" method with an alliance organization of NGOs. To our delight, we received applications from more than 40 organizations, which indicated again the vast need for solar lanterns. From the pool of applicants, we chose our recipients based on criteria such as "organizations that will ensure that solar lanterns are used in areas without electricity," and "solar lanterns will generally be used for public purposes in public facilities such as health centers, schools, and meeting places that will benefit a larger group of people."
One of the issues that must not be overlooked in the Philippines is indigenous people. Many face a life of poverty in mountainous areas without adequate infrastructure such as roads and electricity, leaving them in need of support in the fields of education, medical care, and better quality of life. Many of the recipient organizations address these issues of indigenous people.
An inquiry received through our Facebook page led to a visit to one of the recipient organizations late last July. It was Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society Inc. (SSMESI), which supports the Dumagat, an indigenous tribe living at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains on the island of Luzon in the northern part of the Philippines. The organization is engaged in a wide range of activities, from preserving the forests that support their lives and ensuring that traditional cultures are carried on.
The people appreciated the donations and soon sent us pictures of the solar lanterns in use.
How will solar lanterns be used and how will they help improve people's lives? Our work in the Philippines has just begun, but we look forward to working together more with local community-based NGOs to address the many social challenges there.