The common profile of d.light users on Ataúro Island is mostly off-grid families whose average incomes are USD 100 per month but most of the incomes come from fishing and agriculture. Therefore, they do not have income stability because the weather conditions determine whether the income for the month will be successful or not. But let me introduce you to two examples to show you individual stories of d.light S250 beneficiaries in the village of Biqueli. Before going through each story, have a look at the below map of Biqueli to help you situate their story.
Map of Biqueli and its sub villages
Maria Marçal Lemos is a 38 years old woman with seven children from Uaruana. Her husband works as a fisherman and she collects fruit: bananas, papaya, cassava and coconuts. The land where she works is far away; she has to walk one hour everyday to get there and one hour more to go back home. In order to have time to do everything, she must get up around 5am but now that she has one d.light she can cook breakfast with some healthy lighting, instead of the kerosene that she used before.
Her oldest daughter is 18 years old and now she is studying in Dili, but her other children are still attending school on the island, and they use the d.light to study every night. They have been studying longer than before because there is no more unpleasant smoke damaging their eyes. Maria explains that it is very useful that the solar light has different levels of power available. She also keeps asking for more d.lights because she has a very big family, and with so many people living in the same house one light is not enough.
Maria and two of her kids, Anita and Lorenzo
Far away from Uaruana we meet Hermeregildo Souza. He is a fisherman from Uatu’u, another community in Biqueli that belongs to the sub village of Ilidua. He is married to Aida Gomes, and they are both originally from Iliana. When they fell in love, their families didn’t agree with the engagement so they had to move to Uatu’u to live. After some years, they are now talking again with their people from Iliana, but they have decided to keep on living in Uatu’u because there they have already settled and grow their children there.
Besides fishing, he also owns some animals to sell. Their average income is around USD 35 per month. Before having the d.light, they used to burn flip-flops to have light during the night. Hermeregildo walks everyday along the seashore looking for old flip-flops brought by the tide, and then they put it in the garden, between two houses, to provide some light to his house and his neighbor’s. But the smoke and smell of burning the flip-flops, even in open air, made them sick. So they tried to alternate: one week they used kerosene (USD 3 per week) and then the other week they burnt the plastic flip-flops.
Hermeregildo, his wife Aida, and their youngest children, who you must know from a previous entrance in the blog
He is very happy now that after having the d.light, he doesn’t have to spend time looking for more flip-flops at the beach, and he can dedicate his time to go fishing or farming. He wants more d-lights because he says that now his daughter “steals” the light every night to study in her room, so she leaves the rest of the house in the darkness.
Every family in Biqueli has an interesting story to tell about their lives before and after having a d.light, but there is a common base: all the stories end up with a significant improvement in quality of life. Watching their smiles while they are sharing their experiences with you is priceless.
All photos by Olga Permanyer Martinez