Bright sparks to light up PNG

Published 3:00pm 20 November 2023

Bright sparks to light up PNG
Words by Ashleigh Howarth
Above: Albany Creek State High School Students Xavier Edwards, Roman Wood, Maddy Tipper and Lilly Tsuji with Origin Energy Foundation volunteer Daniel Panasiuk. 

Students from Albany Creek State High School have been busy building solar-powered lights which will be sent to remote communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) that don’t have electricity.

More than 270 students in year 7 built 100 solar lights as part of the Lights for Learning Program, with the school partnering with the Origin Energy Foundation and the Australian charity SolarBuddy.

According to SolarBuddy, only 13 percent of PNG’s population has access to reliable access to electricity.

Consequently, 38 percent of PNG children under eight years cannot read or write, largely because of a lack of lighting after dark, hindering their education opportunities.

Albany Creek State High School principal Janelle Amos says she is proud of her students for making a valuable contribution to the less fortunate.

“This program offers a myriad of benefits for both students involved in the assembly of the lights as well as those disadvantaged children living in light poverty,” Janelle says.

“The learning aspect of this program aligns with science and geography curriculum as it involves students learning about the importance of renewable energy, which is critical at a time when the country is transitioning to cleaner energy technologies.

“This project also allows students to acknowledge that not all citizens have equal access to resources and, by participating in building a solar light with the intention of giving it to someone less fortunate, provides students with an opportunity to think of others.”

Head of the Origin Energy Foundation Michelle Zahra says the program has been making a positive difference for five years.

“Since this initiative began five years ago, more than 9,000 Australian students and their teachers, like those at Albany Creek State High School, have helped deliver more than 10,000 lights,” Michelle says.

“With the introduction of SolarBuddy lights, children in PNG are studying 78 percent longer and reliance on kerosene and other dangerous fuels has been reduced by 8 percent.

“Since these fuels are also the single biggest expenditure for households, that money can now be spent on food, health and education.

“Origin volunteers who take part in these workshops, find it incredibly rewarding to see the impact STEM education has on school students as they become global citizens for a day, discovering how simple renewable energy technologies can make a real difference to energy poverty.”

About the program

The Origin Energy Foundation supports education programs that help break the cycle of disadvantage. Since 2018, the Origin Energy Foundation has worked with Australian students, running the SolarBuddy program with schools across Australia, resulting in thousands of solar lights for school children in PNG living without electricity.

SolarBuddy is a registered Australian charity dedicated to educating and empowering the next generation to change the lives of children living in energy poverty throughout the South Pacific, South East Asia and Africa, by distributing portable solar lights through its innovative school education and corporate engagement programs.

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