An Update from the ‘Solar Mammas’ in India

You may remember from earlier in the year that Ronica Parra and Hanna Derrison are the two Good Work Foundation (GWF) representatives who had the opportunity to become students at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, India for six months.

Both women are from Philippolis in the Free State where GWF has a digital learning campus, and both, currently unemployed, were selected to travel to India to train in solar electrification and rainwater harvesting.

This is in line with GWF’s ‘campus of the future’ training. Philippolis offers digital education, but is also starting to offer education in sustainability. The idea is that Hanna and Ronica would bring solar electrification and rainwater harvesting technologies back to the rural town of Philippolis (to make clean energy affordable and accessible for everyone in this town) as well as train other rural women in the future.

GWF’s Philippolis Digital Learning Campus Coordinator, Lulani Vermeulen, recently visited the two ladies in India and provided the following report and photos:

“Hanna and Ronica have enjoyed and embraced everything about the Indian lifestyle: except, they ask for food with less spice. The two ladies have among other things, learned how to create solar lanterns since starting with the classes.

Ronica and Hanna also attend a class where they are taught about recycling waste products (like old rubber sandals) for educational tools. These ladies have been amazed by the work done by women for their community in India.

They are both so happy and you can see it. Ronica took on the role at the campus to represent the women, so any problems they have, they come to her. A lot of the women come from backgrounds where they can’t stand up for themselves. So Ronica represents them and speaks to the “Big Mama” when there is positive or negative feedback. Hanna is looking so comfortable in her own skin – she is so proud of what she has achieved and can’t believe how far she has come.

The Barefoot College also offers night school for children who work for their families in the fields. I had a chance to go to a couple of these. The college has a new IT centre and they are interested in learning from us (GWF) about ‘Open Learning’. Unbelievable.

I loved learning about the campus. The hospitality was exceptional, the food better and I even wore a sari!

As a final thought: your hope is restored when you see someone prosper who is in a much worse situation than you are. I think Ronica and Hanna are ready to take the lead in empowering the Philippolis ladies after this learning and life experience.

With special thanks to Meagan Fallone, Bunker Roy and friends of Londolozi for making this opportunity possible.”

The solar mamas attend night school where they create things from recycled material. These are educational tools created from recycled flip-flop material.

The solar mammas made these educational tools (numbers) out of recycled flip-flops (shoes). A lot of things are created out of recycled material at the school. Old shopping bags and newspapers are the most used materials, as they are easy to find.

This is a close-up of one the the first solar lanterns Ronica and Hanna were taught to make.

This is a close-up picture of one the the first solar lanterns Ronica and Hanna were taught to make.

This is a solar cooker, one of the many thing that the ladies will come back home and teach the Philippolis people about.

This is a solar cooker, one of the many things that the ladies will come back home and teach the Philippolis people about.

Ronica Parra stands proud with a solar lantern, one of the very first equipment they were taught how to make at the Barefoot College.

Ronica Parra stands proud with a solar lantern, one of the very first things she and Hanna were taught how to make at Tilonia Campus.

Written by Lulani Vermulen.

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