Reflections from the Project Chirag program at Dahanu

Project Chirag, an initiative of Chirag Rural Development, is one of India’s largest youth-driven initiatives, providing solar lighting to villages that have no access to grid electricity. It was founded in March 2010 at H.R. College, Mumbai. Ever since B.D. Somani too has been associated with this project. The purpose is to sensitize students to the larger community and their needs.
This year, our mission was installation of solar lights in 23 homes at Khindipada in Dahanu, Maharashtra for which we went on Janurary 13th, 2020.
Here are reflections from some of our students on the experience and the learnings from this trip.

On the 13th of Jan 2020, we went on a journey to try and light up a village to the best of our abilities. I feel like the cause that Project Chirag focuses on is one of utmost importance since in today’s day and age, electricity and essentially light is slowly becoming a necessity. I myself couldn’t imagine a life without it today. However, having gone there I saw that even without this, they people from Dahanu district were fully able to go on with their day to day life and the tools and methods they used to live this way were truly inspiring and interesting to see. Nonetheless, the integration of electricity into their life would bring them many more advantages that would surely make their living easier, especially during the night time.

Even for us, this trip taught us how to install solar lamps and it exposed us to different lifestyles and ways of living. It enables us to communicate with them despite the language barriers we may face (most of them only spoke in Marathi).

Overall, it was extremely well planned and made us extremely happy about the fact that we were able to light up a village and even though the journey was tiring - it was completely worth it.

As soon as I heard Project Chirag's vision "Light for All," I didn't hesitate to be a part of this great initiative. My helper overheard me speak to my parents about this project and her face instantly lit up with joy as she told me 'mere ghar mein bhi light lagaya tha Odisha mein.' That stirred up my emotions and got me extremely excited to install solar panels in people's home because seeing someone so happy makes me happier than ever. It all started at 12pm when we reached the village and each group was assigned 1-3 houses to light up. The first house I went to was a small hut and while the men were placing the solar panel on the roof, I was interacting with the 5 year old child. He told me about how in the winter it becomes dark faster which makes cooking dinner for his mother very difficult. I instantly placed the wires next to the utensils and he gave me a subtle smile. Just knowing that I did something that made someone's life easier gave me a lot of satisfaction. Not only this, but I also started feeling privileged as I never really thought of having electricity in my house as a blessing. I hope to be a part of Project Chirag's mission and light up as many rural homes as possible!

It’s so easy to take what we have for granted. Going with the Project Chirag team to the village of Khindipada in Dahanu really made me understand that. We went to install solar panels and lights in a village just a four-hour drive away from the heart of Mumbai, and I was shocked when I realised that none of these people had access to electricity. My friends and I installed twenty three solar panels in a small village, and I can honestly say that we took as much from the experience as those who we went to help.

I was humbled and felt ashamed that I hadn’t done something like this sooner when the young girl, who lived in one of the houses that we were woking on, thanked us for giving her the opportunity to study at night. I was inspired when I saw the eagerness and skill with which a young couple learned to use the equipment we gave them and I was moved by the gratitude and warmth that we were shown by our hosts. You never truly understand the consequences of your actions until you get to see them firsthand, and I could not be prouder that I was involved in something that changed lives for the better. It feels amazing when you realise that even one person can have such a huge impact on the lives of others, and Project Chirag was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had for that very reason.

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