Ligthbringers Foundation/Fényhozók Alapítvány
The Ligthbringers Foundation works in the village of Baks with the most advanced tools to fight electricity poverty in an environment of deep poverty. We provide solar panels for households affected by electricity poverty by involving them in a grassroots community, based on solidarity. Our model let disadvantaged citizens benefit from energy transition. With this actual project we would like to provide solar panels for further families and continue our community organising work.
Our project takes place in the village of Baks, in Csongárd county, “Dél-Alföld” region of Hungary.
The region of Dél-Alföld is characterized by economic and social inequalities between cities and smaller localities, and the latter are especially affected by poverty. In the village of Baks and especially in its segregated roma settlement, “Mária telep”, the poorest households face difficulties in accessing energy and within that electricity. This has been worsened by the COVID-19. In the Mária telep households either still have access to electricity but they struggle to pay their bills, or they are not connected anymore to the grid, due the serious indebtedness resulting in disconnection. Lack of lighting has a dramatic hold-back effect on school-performance of children, thus reducing the chances of social mobility and disables families to connect to the larger world.
The installment of the first 12 panels (financed by crowd-funding campaign) was embedded into a larger community-organizing process, facilitated by Aranka Rostás, a community organiser, who grew up and lives in the community.This process created the frames of the democratic functioning of the local Roma community, based on solidarity. Regular community meetings, democratic functioning (e.g. decisions on the selection of recipients), a revolving solidarity fund and voluntary work are the core of our work. Families are also involved in the mounting of the panels.We also advocate the issue of electricity poverty toward local decision makers and build cooperation with them.We now apply for funding to bring forward the strength of community-organizing and to provide panels for further families.
We work exclusively with and for disadvantaged people. Direct beneficiaries of our idea are Roma families, living in the segregated settlement of Baks, facing difficulties to access and afford electricity and who will receive solar panels. In the medium term, the whole settlement benefits from the community organizing activity. Our long-term goal, given the supportive attitude of the local government, is to transform Baks into a model village of an energy community involving low-income households. We would like to develop our model into a distributable, adaptable model, targeting lower-middle class families of the region. To reach these goals, we continue to use our proven community management methods, including community forums, problem mapping and development of common solutions.
Community development part
Community building a solidarity basis, helding forums and volunteering opportunities, constant field presence
Launching a fundraising campaign, with a structured communication strategy to complement the larger fund we hope to get via this call and that enables us to bring forward our model
Recruiting & training volunteers: installation of solar panels is partly based on voluntary work. We hold accredited solar panel installer training for the locals.
Developing solar panel system we currently use, so that solution including an inverter allows the system to operate at least 2 household electronic devices in addition to lighting. An expert engineer supports us in this. The main element of the technical part is the installation of solar panels
We hope that by the end of the project, the exposure of local disadvantaged families to energy poverty will be significantly reduced. This is especially important now, on the eve of the expected huge economic and social crisis. Part of households’ budget previously spent on electricity can be used to cover other expenses (food, education, commuting). Children will be able to fully participate in education, by having an enlightened room at home, and will be able to use a computer and the internet. Return of lighting and lower stress levels related to bills will bring a positive effect on mental health of the families.
The community will experience the power of self-organization: being able to succeed a cause, to represent themselves, and having their voices heard.
Energy poverty does not receive sufficient policy replies yet in Europe, and electricity poverty is especially neglected (which is understandable, as the majority of organizations dealing with energy poverty focus on heating to avoid cold related deaths). Despite vulnerable consumer protection systems, still many households have no or just limited access to electricity due to affordability issues. With our model we would like to prove that by using an empowerment approach, even the poorest households can benefit from energy transition and can create energy communities, even with limited financial resources. At relatively low costs, relying on the power of self-organization, important social benefits can be achieved including the inclusion of poor households to energy transition.
We are also affected by energy poverty, experiencing its spillover effects on our own skin. As professionals working in the social care system, we also see that energy poverty leads to a routine of taking children away from the families to institutional care for the reason of homes being cold and without electricity and hot water, despite the fact that legally no children can be institutionalized for being poor. Energy poverty also leads to households being excluded from services and in extreme cases, to loss of housing. Absence of light is also a common reason for falling behind and being dropped out from education. We consider our mission to give children and young adults more opportunities to emerge from deep poverty.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs (1 project manager, 1 community organizer, 1 technical developer, 2 technicians): 17.800 EUR
Material expenses (30 solar panel, 30 inverter, 30 accumulator, cables, tools): 27.500 EUR
Transport: 2.000 EUR
What do you find most useful in the program? What would you do differently and why? We are currently thinking at the regional level, but we wonder if you see potential in this program, or a similar approach, to rise to an international level.