It was about 98 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we reached the DCBS women's group meeting at Sefali Marik's home. The sun was extremely bright, and while in my mind, I was glad that the light was being harnessed by solar energy panes, on the outside, I was getting baked. Sefali's home had a large and long, shaded veranda where all the ladies in her group had gathered. Being under the shade felt amazing, and I was even offered my own ‘hand fan’ which made things even better.
My guide Suparna, who is a field officer for DCBS, started off by taking care of some official loan business, while I played with one of the younger boys who was mildly curious of my presence. After all the official loan business was taken care of, we started discussing the past. Sefali explained to me that most of the ladies present were involved in the embroidery and tailoring business or ran some other small business with their husbands. They all agreed that frequent power cuts had made it a lot more difficult for them to work.
The dark made it impossible to do things like needlework, or use a sewing machine. Since generators are pretty expensive, these women have had to resort to using old kerosene lanterns that end up doing more harm than good. The ladies complained that the black smoke would stain the ceilings and also get in their lungs. The lanterns produced very little light, which didn't make it easier to work in the dark. Most importantly, many of these women have very young children constantly running around the place, and the kerosene lanterns, often placed on the floor, made the mothers very nervous.
After receiving the loan from Milaap through lenders like you, Sefali and the 9 other ladies in her group received solar lanterns. They told me that from the start, things got much easier to deal with when the power went out. "Rather than trying to light a kerosene lantern in the dark, turning on the solar lantern is much easier," one of the ladies in the group stated. The lanterns eliminate the danger faced by their children around kerosene lanterns, they shared. Sefali also told me that she often uses the lantern instead of switching on a light because it helps her save on her electricity bill, which can become a burden when the current isn't gone.
Overall, Sefali Marik and the ladies in her group were happy with their solar lanterns, because the lanterns enable them to do so much more when the power goes off. Through word of mouth reviews passed around by their families, many of the locals here have opted to receive a loan for solar lanterns to light their homes. They told me that they soon would like to have other appliances and electronics too that can run using solar energy. They were grateful that people throughout the world were willing to lend money for their cause.
Sefali Marik (center) sitting with the other ladies in her group.