I’ll be honest – my involvement with the Himalayan light foundation was first very selfish in nature. I am transitioning my career into one of environmental conservation, and figured that volunteering on a solar power installation works be the perfect opportunity to get hands on experience in a renewable energy technology. A quick Google search unveiled a handful of possible projects. But when I clicked the link for “solar sisters” offering projects in Nepal I knew I’d found my match. I couldn’t think of a better place to volunteer than a country that also has the world’s largest mountains, satisfying my other main passion in life. I have many friends that have visited Nepal and all day they were generously welcomed by the kind, smiling communities. I also learned that late fall was a great time to visit as it is the end of the monsoon season and thus has mostly clear fall days, lining up perfectly with the end of my European travels.
So I reached out to solar sisters, who put me in touch with Yadavraj Gurung of the Himalayan Light Foundation, the program manager of the overarching nonprofit organization. He informed me of a potential program at the basic school in the remote village of Necha Bedghari. The Necha school had just received a grant for 3 new computers, but the town’s rudimentary hydropower system did not supply the necessary amount of power
I put my frequent flyer miles to work and on September 11, my birthday no less, I touched down in Kathmandu. Yadav and I got together to finalize our plans and discuss the last of the project details, and the next day we embarked on the 12 hour journey to Necha. The Jeep was packed to the brim with myself, Yadev, the technician Binod and the driver nestled between 10 solar panels, 4 massive batteries and all the other necessary tools and equipment with the racking and our luggage strapped on top. We bounded over rocky roads, forded rivers, got stuck and unstuck and eventually made it to our destination.
After dropping my bag off in my room, I joined the others for some delicious dal bhat. I was the odd woman out, using a spoon while the others scooped up mouthfuls with their hands, something I’d never experienced and frankly was impressed by their efficiency. We were all exhausted from the journey so we each called it a night with anticipation of our installation to begin the next day.
In the morning, after stopping for breakfast at a home along the way, we hiked up to the Necha basic school. After a tour of the school, group discussion on the project and a generous acknowledgement of appreciation by the schoolmaster, teacher and children, Binod & I got to work wiring the soon to be “computer room” for it’s new solar power system. We prepared the batteries, wiring them together first, then to the inverter, and thereafter into the room’s existing power line, successfully testing our work with a flip of the light switch. We ran electrical lines and outlets to three locations to be utilized by the new computers. In the next room over we staged the panels for installation to the racks that would house them. Outside the schoolchildren sang the national anthem, stretched, had a quick lesson, then spent the day playing an be occasionally peeking in on our work; it was national children’s day so regular lessons were cancelled. The next day, after wiring the panels and installing some supports to the roof, we enlisted some fearless locals to help us heave the panels up onto the roof and into place. Binod put this final touches on the wiring layout, ran the wiring down through the skylight into the computer room, connected it up to the controller and voila, our 10 panels were charging our batteries and the system was ready to power some computers!
The locals held a quick ceremony thanking is for our contributions to the school and the community, then I had another 4 hour rough ride to catch to get me to my start point for my trek to the Everest region, complete with 2 chickens along for the ride in the bed of the pickup.
I learned so much from my patient and willing teacher Binod throughout the installation process. More importantly, I felt so great that my contribution would provide the children I met with the doorway to the world that computer education can provide. Thank you Binod, Yadav and the Himalayan light foundation for the experience of installing a solar power system; the opportunity to contribute an invaluable life skill to the children of Necha, and for making me feel at home in Nepal!