Scrubbed clean, on their best behavior, and in their finest clothes, the community’s children quietly arrive to receive their solar lamps from One Million Lights. No, they’re not praying, they are greeting me with murmurs of Namaste, hello and welcome. We are all gathered in Ganganahalli - a small hamlet community situated on the border of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, in India.
After my very warm welcome from the children, I tell them how to use their solar lights to study in the evenings. I show them that the solar panel converts sunlight into power that provides them with light at night.
These kids know that nothing in life is free. To express their gratitude, they draw us pictures. They are so proud of their work.
As each child’s name is called to come forward to receive their light, he or she bravely steps forward, shakes my hand, looks me straight in the eyes while saying a heart-felt ‘thank you, mam,’ and then presents their picture. For me, it is an enchanting, gut-wrenching moment. I have this awesome and terrible feeling 62 times… once for every child who looks at me with such gratitude.
These children will no longer have to read by the dim light of a kerosene lamp. No longer will they literally burn their parents’ income in order to finish up their school work in the evenings. Almost every child told me that their biggest worry for the future is in securing a job that pays a living wage. They want to be doctors, engineers, teachers, social workers. They sound just like my nieces and nephews… normal children, dreaming about the future.
These kids are lucky. They live very close to a wellness center, The Navadarshanam Trust, which helps their parents get a fair wage. This center provides a weekly enrichment program for the community’s children. These kids have a school master that really cares for them. And now each has a solar lamp that enables them to study safely at night. Please give this gift to another child. One million lights happens one light at a time.