Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lighting for dinner

We were wiring up the last house on Friday, the last day of our service project.  When the sun was going down, the lady of the house was beginning to prepare for dinner, while her daughter watched the fire in the stove.  

Soon the whole island was plunged into darkness.  Our students hurried to finish the wiring under the feeble lights from the smartphones.  We knew the lights would not last long. 

I went to the kitchen area and found the amazing scene of the lady cleaning several small fish, under the even more feeble light from a headlamp powered by AA batteries.  Her husband caught the fish from the river behind the house.  She picked some wild mushrooms and vegetables from the thicket around the house.  The 3 AA batteries cost about half a US dollar, and would last 4 days on average.  That is quite a bit of money considering a primary school teacher makes roughly 100 US dollars a month.  On days when there were no fish, and no wild mushrooms, they might spend a dollar and a half on food for dinner. 

When the students finished the wiring, the LED lights that they installed did not turn on even when we connect the circuit to the car battery that we provided to the family.  When we checked the wirings, they did not look right.   We decided to stop because it was already dark, and it would be much too dangerous to cross the Mekong River in the dark.  The family was, of course, disappointed.  But we promised to come back in the morning. 

On the following day, the students had a day off.  Three of the staff came back to the island to fix the problem.  We discovered that there were multiple glaring mistakes in the wiring, and decided to completely redo the wiring.  It took us 2 hours but we did fix the wiring.  The family was very happy to see the LED lights turned on, shining much brighter and covering a much wider area than her headlamp.  We gave up our day off but their smiles were well worth it.  

The family can now take their battery to the charing station nearby to charge it, and then bring it home to plug into the lighting system.  

The lady will not have to wear her headlamp in order to cook anymore. 

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