Part of the philosophy of HDF is to take on projects that have meaningful impact, measurable results and, to the extent possible, no administrative cost. We want to be able to say with confidence to our donors that every dollar invested goes directly to providing maximum good.
To that end, we have direct experience in knowing the need for skylights in school classrooms and the impact this simple project can make on the quality of the lives of school children and their teachers. The installation of these skylights provides additional radiant heat and light which directly improves the learning that occurs.
When Jay and Don were at the Chhulemu school and asked what was most needed, the headmaster replied by asking for the purchase and installation of kerosene or wood burning stoves for each of the classrooms. No heat was then being provided to the classrooms and in colder months when school was in session (they are closed completely during the coldest two months of January and February) temperatures in the classrooms were such that students and teachers would have to wear winter outerwear of coats, mittens and caps. Jay and Don resisted that request because of the initial capital outlay and, more importantly, because of the ongoing expense each new stove would then elicit. Fuel of either sort would have to be purchased or procured some distance away and carried in by pack animal or porter. Further, the burning of wood would exacerbate a nationwide deforestation problem and create harmful fumes.
The standard for school construction calls for corrugated metal panels being fitted and sealed together across the expanse of a school’s roof. Typically, the underside of that exterior roof is also the interior ceiling in each of the rooms of the school. What is also typical, is there is one single, small window in the rooms and, since there is no or nominal electricity serving the schools, the only light in the classrooms is natural light that comes in through that little window or the doorway that opens to the outside. (Of course, that open door also lets in cold air in the winter.)
In another nearby school, Jay and Don had seen classroom roofs/ceilings retrofitted to provide natural light and radiant heat. A panel of corrugated metal, say six feet long by two feet wide, was removed and in its place was installed a corrugated panel of equal size, but made of translucent fiberglass. The materials were purchased in Salleri (two days’ walk away), and portered in. As an added benefit to the local economy, the village carpenter was hired to do the installation.
Voila! For minimal dollars the room in instantly transformed with natural light and radiant heat, without opening the door. Students can see better and stay warm. No stoves needed to be purchased, fuel is not required and there is no ongoing adverse impact to the environment.
Once we gained experience in actually doing this project and knowing its impact, we replicated it in other schools in the area. With the installation of one skylight for each room, an average school can be retrofitted for an approximate cost of $500. Through 2015, HDF installed skylights in 20 local schools and an orphanage at a local monastery. We consider this project complete. Below are pictures of some of those schools in the area.