In 2012, Wadah Foundation began a partnership with Barefoot College International India in the fields of women’s empowerment and solar electricity to improve the welfare of rural communities. Wadah is an implementing partner of the Barefoot program in providing solar electricity to unelectrified villages in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province.
This program begins by preparing human resources to ensure its sustainability. Therefore, in the initial stages, Barefoot and Wadah selected 8 mothers, namely 1 from Pomat, 3 from Wuring Lembah, 2 from Wolomude – Sikka Regency and 2 from Koa, South Central Timor Regency to be trained as collar electricity technicians at the Barefoot Tilonia Rajasthan India campus.
This is where the existence of a figure named Gaudensius Botu, who is familiarly called Om Botu, began. Botu is one of the residents of Pomat hamlet in Wailiti Village, West Alok District, Sikka, NTT who in 2015 was a beneficiary of the solar electricity program.
Botu and several men in Pomat hamlet were trained to help Mama Agnes Delima, who had returned from India, to carry out installation activities which included installing panels, cables, lights, and other components in people’s homes. Since then, Botu, a graduate of vocational high school who works odd jobs as a farmer and builder, has become familiar with solar electricity. Even after the installation work was completed, he continued by conducting trials in his own home. He also did not refuse when asked for help to repair lamps or solar electrification systems that were not working in his neighbor’s house.
Botu also received additional knowledge and skills from Mama Rasmi, a solar electricity technician who studied at the Barefoot Tilonia Rajasthan India – batch 2013. Botu succeeded in making various breakthroughs. For example, making flashlights and solar-powered learning lamps from used materials, as well as modifying the solar lamp system l by himself by adding a fuse as a safety so that the solar electricity component which was originally only able to light 3 points of light, after the use of the fuse can light 6 points with a longer duration.
Not only that, the use of these fuses can extend the life of the battery from five years to eight years. This achievement led to Botu being recruited by Wadah to become a specialised staff member for the solar electricity program.
Botu’s contribution to the solar electricity program continued and became even greater when in June-July 2022 the solar electricity training was held in Mbay, in collaboration with the Manpower and Transmigration Office, Nagekeo District Government, which was attended by 11 participants consisting of 10 women and 1 man where Mama Rasmi acts as the main trainer and Botu as the accompanying trainer. This training increased Botu’s confidence in his abilities.
Since then, Botu ‘s work area has increased, from just 1 community to 11 communities consisting of 3 communities in Sikka district, 5 communities in Nagekeo district, 2 communities in Alor district and 1 community in Timor Tengah Selatan district.
The impact of Botu’s assistance was immediately felt. Currently, Botu is assisting 60 technicians and cadres so that they become more skilled and innovative as Botu has done. Some of those assisted by Botu have even become trainers for young people in their villages to have knowledge and skills in installing panels, cables, lights, and other solar electricity components in the homes of residents who receive solar electricity assistance.
The LTS program continues to grow, so does Botu and his innovation, making street lighting powered by solar which was stalled due to lack of maintenance in Tasi village, Alor finally able to function.
Through training and mentoring to the community and collaboration with the village government, the solar electrification program is still sustainable. Lamps powered by solar are still installed and have been functioning since 2015 until now. These lamps still work until now because of routine maintenance, as carried out by Botu. With solar-electrified lights, children can study at night, parents can do work at night such as breaking candlenuts, peeling nuts, tying thread for weaving, etc. “Thanks to the existence of solar lamps so we have light at night”, “We were trained by Botu, so that when the lamp breaks at home, we can fix it ourselves,” said Mr. Vinsen Tefa from Koa Village.
Author: Wahyuning Dwi Ndraha
Editor: Paula Stela Landowero