They left the country in September 2014 first time away from their villages and a bit uncertain about life in India. They are now back, beaming with pride as they are fondly called solar Mamas, after six months of training at Barefoot College in Tilonia, in the state of Jaipur in India. The three village women were: Zenaida Benitez from Hilotongan, one among the Yolanda-battered islands of Bantayan, Northern Cebu; Mildred Barona from the upland Itneg village of Lacub in Abra; and Arcelyn Dalingay from the village of Gawaan, in Kalinga province. They were chosen based on maturity and status in the community that project their unwavering commitment to serve. The training was sponsored by Barefoot College with assistance from the Indian Government through its Indian Technical Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program.
SIBAT facilitated the selection and pre-training activities with the aim that the three could help SIBAT to electrify off-grid communities, and train other women and men on solar home lighting systems. They were among 7 Filipino women (the others were 4 Aeta women from Tarlac and Zambales) who were selected and accepted into the program last year.
A one-year plan under SIBAT’s Renewable Energy Program has been drawn up to implement solar home lighting projects utilizing the skills of the solar Mamas.
Barefoot College representatives came to the Philippines last April and validated baseline surveys of the communities in aid of developing proposals to secure funding for the solar home systems they will assemble. With fund availability, rural homes in off-grid areas of the Philippines could soon bid goodbye to wick lamps and enjoy the bright illumination of solar-powered home systems skillfully assembled by the solar Mamas.