Rotarians help light village
The future just got a whole lot brighter for the Fijian village of Vuaki, thanks to the efforts of two Del Mar Rotarians.
Jane and Steve Fletcher recently returned from a roughly two-week trip to the remote island of Matacawalevu, where they helped install 100 solar lanterns in the village of Vuaki. That’s enough for each bure, or hut, which are generally 250 square feet.
The villagers had previously been using kerosene lamps, which Jane Fletcher said are a fire hazard and emit toxic fumes. The lanterns also eliminate the need to buy kerosene, which costs $10 in Fijian currency per month and, according to Jane Fletcher, could represent a substantial amount of a family’s income.
“The beauty of these solar lamps is that you immediately save the need for kerosene, so it has health benefits, it has financial benefits and it has the social benefits of extended light now that opens up all sorts of opportunities,” Jane Fletcher said.
The lamps, recently invented by D’Light Design, were bought with a $3,600 grant from the Del Mar Rotary Club. They charge after two hours in the intense Fiji sun, and can provide up to 500 hours of light, depending on the settings. The lamps can emit 12 hours of bright light when set at the highest power.
“A lot of the women were really excited because their kids got all stoked on being able to use it for their homework,” Jane Fletcher said.
The trip was coordinated with the San Diego-based Loloma Foundation’s January medical mission. Loloma is Fijian for “from the heart.” Jane Fletcher said she and her husband chose Vuaki over other villages because Loloma recommended it.
“They had done some sustainability projects there in the past,” she said. “They had experience knowing that it was a well-organized village and had defined leadership. They assumed responsibility for projects, and that was key.”
The Fletchers flew overnight to Fiji, a country made up of more than 300 islands, roughly 100 of which are inhabited. They then spent an additional 4 1/2 hours on a catamaran, and finally switched to a small tin boat that took them to their resort, 15 minutes away. Vuaki is on a neighboring island, so each day while the Loloma doctors were off working, the Fletchers took another boat ride across to the village.
The Fletchers say they hope to implement a second phase of this lighting project, which would involve getting solar lamps to Vuaki’s community center.
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