Illuminating Lives with the Gift of Light to Address Energy Poverty

Sumitomo Corporation Asia & Oceania (SCAO) assembled and delivered solar energy kits to children living in energy poor areas, giving them a light source to study at night. This 100SEED activity was carried out under SCAO’s corporate volunteering program “Project Hope.”

Tackling an issue that affects one in five people worldwide

Energy poverty is a significant global challenge that is estimated to impact one in five people worldwide. This issue is particularly prevalent in underdeveloped countries where poor infrastructure and high electricity costs result in many low-income households having limited access to stable and reliable electricity. Not only has this been linked to poor health, but it also limits the education potential of children. Without adequate light, children are unable to study in the evenings, leading to poorer overall literacy rates.

For our 100SEED activity, we wanted to do something to address these issues and give these children a brighter future. To that end, we approached SolarBuddy, an Australian impact organization striving to address energy poverty by putting solar lights into the hands of children living in energy-poor areas. SolarBuddy delivers unassembled solar kits around the world, where donors and/or beneficiaries work to assemble them.
Afterwards, the completed solar kits are distributed to the areas that need them.

An unassembled solar kit from SolarBuddy

Broadening the horizons of local students at the same time

After deciding on the SolarBuddy program, we thought of a second way to make use of this opportunity. We reached out to Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN), a social service agency that provides special education, vocational training, and employment support services for individuals with mild intellectual disabilities, which we have been collaborating with for several years. We believed that involving APSN students in the SolarBuddy program would provide them with a tangible experience of how they could contribute to society.

Assembling the kits together
Assembling the kits together

On the day of the program, a group of students from APSN arrived at SCAO Singapore, and we ushered them up to our multi-purpose room. First, we had a video conference with the founder of SolarBuddy, where she gave a welcome and thank you speech. After that, there was a demonstration video on how to assemble the solar kits. Then, the thirty-six Sumitomo volunteers paired up with the students, and they worked together to assemble them. The children were between the ages of 10 and 16. Although they struggled with the first kit or two, they grew progressively faster and more enthusiastic, and even began competing with each other to see who could assemble the most kits. They also enjoyed contributing their heartfelt thoughts and feelings to the messages that we sent with the kits.

Afterwards, we all had a tea break together, where the volunteers and students could mingle. Then, we showed them around the office, explaining how companies work in general. It turned out to be a very fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

An APSN student is intrigued by a model ship displayed in our office
Participants had a good time mingling during the tea break

A valuable life lesson

Although the program was relatively simple, we believe that it had both tangible and intangible benefits. The tangible benefits were of course the solar light kits, which were delivered to children in energy-poor areas in Cambodia. The intangible benefits were the lessons and values that everyone was able to take away from that day. The students of APSN have generally been on the receiving end of aid and charity. However, by assembling the kits, they discovered that they too had the power to do something for those in need. We hope that this valuable lesson will stay with them as they grow up and become working members of society.
Moving forward, we would like to continue working with our local partners and also expand our activities to improve the lives of people around the world.

Message from a participating staff member

This program increased participants’ awareness of energy poverty faced by disadvantaged communities around the world. It provided us with the opportunity to be part of a greater cause in creating hope for others.
Moreover, it was endearing to interact with the students from APSN and encourage them to recognize that they too had the power to help others in their own way. Seeing their sense of fulfillment as they completed assembling each SolarBuddy kit, one can appreciate their motivation to contribute to society.
Truly, this activity epitomizes our Corporate Message “Enriching lives and the world.”

Lucias Kam, participant of SCAO Project Hope activity – Illuminating Lives
Jasper Loh, SCAO Project Hope Ambassador

This is a simple yet powerful platform for me to make a positive impact on multiple fronts. I look forward to a similar opportunity to create a brighter future for our society and the communities around the world.

March 2024