27 Nov Project Chirag: How a college project evolved into an NGO
I was a student of HR College in 2010 and that’s where the idea of Project Chirag took birth. Work for it was started by five of us – two students, myself, our faculty member Pratibhai Pai and our principal Dr. Indu Shahani. We found out that in Thane, just a couple of hours from Mumbai, there are villages that are without electricity.
We found out that the best way of bringing electricity to such villages was to do so by bringing in solar lighting system. This proved to be an amazing option — it’s a renewable source of energy, easy to maintain, eco-friendly, reduces carbon footprint and reduces the usage of kerosene used in traditional lamps by villagers.
It was tough to raise funds but we were determined for the sake of these 100 houses. In a matter of days, we had raised Rs 5 lakh. After we bought the solar lights, many of us went to every house in the village to tell the residents about how to use the lights, explain the functionality and so on. This was the first green step. Little did we know that there would be many more to come. After giving this gift of light to this one village, in the months that followed, we managed to collect a lot more money.
In less than a year, we had given such solar lighting systems to 1,000 homes in 33 villages that had no electricity, which was our criterion. This social-environment cause gained momentum and soon we registered Chirag Rural Development Foundation (2011).
We were now professionally and institutionally ready to make a larger contribution to the social-environment cause. Our registered office is in Tardeo. We have four full time employees, four directors and several young volunteers. As of today, we have provided light to 10,000 houses in 246 villages across seven states and have impacted around 50,000 people. We have been partnering with local NGOs as they become the point of contact for the villagers in case of any snags. These NGOs also help identify villages that don’t have any electricity.
We give two solar lights to each house. One light is kept inside the house while the other is a portable one. The portable light has helped farmers to keep a check on their farms at night. It has also helped women who go out at night for sanitation purposes. Villagers have also given us feedback that their children now study extra hours in the evening too.