Bringing light to poverty-stricken community

WHILE most students across Queensland are learning from home at the moment, one Ipswich family is using their downtime to help others with a unique charity program.

The health crisis put a pause on the innovative SolarBuddy program, which involves students building solar lights for children living in poverty.

When volunteers for the Origin Energy-inspired program were no longer able to visit schools, an overhaul was required, and fast.

The new SolarBuddy Family program, which is currently being rolled out, will have volunteers guide their homeschooled children or relatives through the SolarBuddy program and build up to five lights in their own homes. With a strong learning focus, together they will learn about energy poverty and renewable energy, then build solar lights that will be sent to poverty-stricken children in Vanuatu.

Father Kieran Olsen has joined the program, inviting his children Olenka and Zak to help build the solar lights at home with him.

"I had a great experience volunteering with the program at Mabel Park State High School last year in Logan, and thought it would be great to get my family involved, particularly during these challenging times," Mr Olsen said.

"While it's a tough time for everyone here in Australia, we are still very lucky compared to other people in the world right now who are not only dealing with COVID-19 but also ongoing issues like energy poverty and unsophisticated healthcare systems."

In a touching part of the program, students also get to write a letter to those who they send their lights to.

Kieran's 15 year-old daughter Olenka said the experience has opened her eyes to how other people live in poorer countries.

"I was given the opportunity to learn more about the conditions these children live in," Olenka said. "At first, I thought it was silly because it was just a light … how much could a light do?

"But then I realised that not everyone has access to lighting all the time, and it is something I usually take for granted. This enabled me to not only acknowledge the readily available luxuries I but also to appreciate them."

Thirteen year old Zak has also enjoyed building the lights at home, and hopes that other families get on board.

"I think this program is not only a bit of fun, but also for a very good cause and I am hoping that other people get the same opportunity."

To find out more about how you can help visit www.solarbuddy.org