"I come from an underprivileged tribal community in Odisha state, India."
My father goes out for daily labor. My two younger brothers and I help my mother in bringing water to our home from 8 km away. We have to make the trip twice a day in the day to collect water, since there are no streetlights or electricity in our home.
In my village, girls and women aren't able to go outside much after dark, as there can be drunk villagers. Recently, a 10-year-old girl coming back from school was kidnapped, raped and left in the forest to be eaten by wild animals. After that, my parents did not allow me to go to school since it is quite far. They didn't feel that it was safe for me to be out in the dark, so I had to drop out.
When I am not doing household work, I used a kerosene lamp to try and study in the night to fulfill my dreams of becoming a civil engineer. My grandmother was bitten by a poisonous insect and we could not reach the hospital in time due to bad road conditions. I would like to build good roads for my village and build shelters to protect them from disaster.
But my dream seemed impossible sometimes. Inhaling the kerosene lamp gas caused me to cough and feel weakness. Without clean water, my whole family was becoming sicker day by day.
One day, a team of young people arrived in our village. They were very kind and soft-spoken. I was excited to meet them because I always try to learn from others who are so educated. My attention went towards some square-like plates that they brought with them. Along with my father, they were fixing the plates in some households and classrooms at a cyclone shelter nearby.
I silently observed everything and asked my father about the purpose of the devices. To my surprise, he told me this would bring electricity to our house and the cyclone shelter. I saw the same electric bulbs and fans that I had seen whenever I went into town with my father in the past. I would have never thought that I would have these same devices in my own home as well!
By the evening, everything was completed. We had a box set up in our house and my father went to switch on the button on the box. The bulbs and fan turned on! I was so happy and started playing with my two brothers.
The most amazing and astonishing part was in the morning, I saw my father pouring the dirty water from the nearby pond into a container written "SunSaluter". I didn't understand anything and was very curious. My father explained to me that this water would help these square plates to rotate in the direction of the sun and receive extra energy until the evening. This would give us more electricity to study and cook in the kitchen, avoiding kerosene lamps. This system could purify at least 6 litres of clean drinking water, so my mother and I do not have to walk anymore to collect water.
My father told me that the same system is at our classroom in the cyclone shelter, so we now have lights and drinking water there. This is also much safer, so we don't have to drop out anymore.
From that moment, my passion to become an engineer became even stronger. I want to create innovations like this for my community. I promised my parents that no other families will face these difficulties once I become an engineer.
I would like to thank the engineers who designed this simple device, SunSaluter. It changed my life.
Chandana Paramanik lives in Bagagahan village. The Government school is 5km from her house, and requires walking 3km barefoot across a muddy road, and then taking a boat across a river which is full of saltwater crocodiles. It’s dark when she returns from school. There is no government electricity supplied in their region because the area is prone to disasters. This brought about Chandana’s desire to pursue her studies and dreams to become an engineer, hoping to bring changes to her village when she often felt there wasn’t enough action.
Due to their low hanging thatched house, Chandana struggled to prepare for exams as there was no light and it was too hot in the summer. The SunSaluter changed that, allowing more power for light and cooling. Most importantly, they don’t have to travel miles for drinking water as through SunSaluter they can have 6 litres of purified water everyday.
Now she is confident she’ll fulfill her dreams of becoming a civil engineer. She hopes to use her degree to help her mother and children like her not to have to carry water pots for drinking water from far places in the dark, and to help all village houses be designed appropriately for disaster resilience, and with appropriate roads and communication with schools.
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