For Tharin, I now understand that this lamp means a way out of poverty. She says: “I didn’t want to be like my parents, who were not able to go to school. But the kerosene lamp flickered so much I couldn’t see. If it was windy or rainy, the lamp would go out, and I couldn’t re-light it to finish my homework.
“The solar lamp helps me and my big brother study at night. It is helping me at school, and my school marks have improved a lot. Now I dream of finishing school and being a doctor, so I can help my family. And I wish all children could have solar lamp like mine.”
In a village where there are no water and sanitation facilities, it also means Tharin’s younger sister Kakada can keep an eye out for snakes when going to the toilet outside in the evening. Complete with a USB port, this lamp means her father can charge his phone and call if a doctor in an emergency, or call buyers of produce and sell his harvest. It means that at the local health centre, midwives no longer have to hold a torch between their teeth when assisting women in childbirth at night.
This lamp also gives families access to the small but essential things that improve our quality of life – in a home with no TV, the family can read for pleasure at night time. If a younger child is having a bad dream, a mother can turn on the light in the wee hours to provide reassurance. And if someone forgets to turn off the light, it’s ok, everyone can rest easy.
As I get into the festive spirit this year, and put up my tree and decorations and fairy lights, I am going to take a moment to think of those who living without light every day. I encourage you to do the same. One solar lamp can mean the world of difference to a child like Tharin – it means protection and opportunity and hope. And that is the best kind of gift to give at Christmas.