Dream Of 100 Homes At Kg. Sungai Magandai Came True – SWEPA Barefoot Solar Project

_dsc1667Meet 5-year-old Henry and his 9-year old brother, Adren, from Kampung Sungai Magandai, a remote village in the Kota Marudu District presently only accessible by off-road vehicles. Henry and Adren do not enjoy the modern pleasures of iPads, Disney channels and things that our children take for granted in their daily life.  Sunday means making two wooden swords from pieces of wood and a game of sword-fighting begins.  Henry and Adren are part of the 6 children of Kokop, aged 48 and his wife Marinok, 34.


The eldest daughter Nervina (20) works as a babysitter in Kota Marudu and her younger brother Zidan (17), currently works as a factory worker in Kota Kinabalu for a wage of only RM300 a month. Their 3rd child aged 15 also works as a babysitter in Tandek for a minimal wage of RM300 per month. Their youngest daughter, Elviana is only 2 years old.


Kokop’s house is a 3-kilometre walk from Kg. Sungai Magandai and is currently in a very rundown state. The roof is full of leaks and walls are made of tree barks.  Kokop barely makes less than RM50 a month from the sale of wild vegetables gathered from the forest. They have no piped water nor electricity in their house. Water is sourced from the river below and cooking is done with firewood where chicken meat and other meats are only for special occasions.


These are some of the current living conditions of the 100 homes of the Dusun Sonsogon people of Kg Sungai Magandai which has an estimated population of about 600 people.  The lives of these 100 homes are about to change for the better.


The Sabah Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals Association (SWEPA) is a Non-Governmental Organisation established since 1994. SWEPA aims to bring women entrepreneurs and professionals to the forefront in the economic development of the state and nation.

Headed by SWEPA Barefoot Solar Project Organising Chairlady Datin Jeanette Tambakau, and SWEPA Deputy President Datuk Aminah Ambrose, SWEPA is working together with Barefoot College in India, founded by Mr. Bunker Roy more than 40 years ago with a geographic focus on the least developed countries, to train women worldwide as solar engineers, innovators and educators, who then return to their villages to bring light and learning to their community.


The SWEPA Barefoot Solar Project 1.0, launched in 16 May 2014 has successfully trained one illiterate grandmother Tarihing Masanim aged 42, who hails from the remote village of Kg Sonsogon Magandai, who became a solar engineer. She was sent to Barefoot College in Tilonia, India to undergo 6 months of intensive training. Solar mama Tarihing said she often faced difficulty in communication and technical challenges, and most of all missing her family from Sabah. However, her dream of giving a brighter future for her younger generations at home kept her motivated and she completed her training successfully and has since lighted more than 100 homes in her village.


This project was successfully implemented and supported by project partners Barefoot College and the Government of India for the training, the GEF Small Grants Programme by UNDP, Asian Forestry Company for logistics and communication, Sabah Credit Corporation for the sponsorship of the workshop building materials, Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah, Raleigh International who helped build the Rural Electronic Workshop building, Sabah State and Federal Government and official media partner Daily Express for media coverage.


Moving on with the overwhelming success of the SWEPA Barefoot Solar Project 1.0 and support from its various partners, SWEPA has had identified a second village named Kampung Sungai Magandai which is 2 kilometres further away from Kampung Sonsogon Magandai.  They managed to identify another two grandmothers, Rusni Singkamung and Gining Jaineh, both grandmothers both 44 in age. They have successfully completed their training at Barefoot College in India recently and have come home to light up their village homes which include the home of Henry and Adren.


On September 4th, 2016, the SWEPA team, with the help of the Sabah Fire and Rescue Services Department (BOMBA) has successfully airlifted 241 boxes of Solar Lighting Systems weighing more than 4 tons with the BOMBA helicopter piloted by Captain Ahmad Fissol Ismail.  In the shipment were 100 sets of solar panels, LED lamp units, chargers, solar lanterns, batteries, electronic and supporting items for 100 homes.  These solar lighting equipment were flown from the town of Tandek into Kampung Sungai Magandai and tirelessly handled by a team of 60 strong BOMBA (42 people) and STORM (18 people) supervised personally by Mr. Nordin Pauzi, Director of BOMBA Sabah and his Assistant Director, Mr. Khairul Azuwan Ibrahim.



Upon arrival of the equipment, the SWEPA BAREFOOT SOLAR PROJECT 2.0 team members briefed the villages on the logistics for managing the equipment and the handover ceremony for the solar equipment.  Solar mama Tarihing Masanim was also there to assist the SWEPA team. Another 100 homes will be lighted by the program when solar mamas Rusni and Gining return.



This project is always looking for Partners to achieve its project goals. If you feel that you or your organisation can be a part of this great project to provide Solar Energy to rural villages in Sabah, SWEPA will be most happy to hear from you. They can be contacted at email: swepasecretariat@gmail.com or Tel: 088-268 122.


To find out more about SWEPA, please visit: www.swepa.org.my


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