Nelson College Prep Students assemble SolarBuddy lights

Nelson College Preparatory School has lit the way for better living and learning by building SolarBuddy lights for Pacific Island children in need.

SolarBuddy is an Australian charity whose mission is to provide safe and effective solar energy to communities who suffer from the limiting effects of energy poverty.

As part of its SolarBuddy schools programme, the prep students were given the opportunity to build a SolarBuddy light before sending that light to a child in need, in the village of Latuan on Tanna Island.

The lights provided one hour of illumination for every hour of solar energy charged.

Due to the after-effects of Cyclone Pam and a lack of Government funding, Latuan has found itself – like a lot of Vanuatu schools – with no electricity.

Nelson College Prep pupil Vinnie Thompson said he was keen to get involved in the project so that kids from Vanuatu could finally have a source of light beyond kerosene lamps, which could often be hazardous.

“If they’re burning them overnight while they’re asleep the [lamps] might get accidently knocked over,” he said.

The lights would also make evening visits to the toilet less worrisome, given the amount of snakes in Vanuatu, Thompson said.

On Tanna, custom says that evil is embodied in the snake. While they aren’t venomous, they can give you a nasty bite.

From an academic perspective, Thompson said the solar buddy lamps would make doing their homework a lot easier.

Head teacher Richard Nott said the project was part of an in-class topic on renewable energy and future fuels. He said the boys had learnt to use their education to help others.

For more information about running the SolarBuddy program in New Zealand please contact Kate Rowland via email

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