Val Pitkethly has, single handed, been the driving force that has seen individual solar lights installed in over 4000 households in remote villages in the Huayhuash and Cordillera Blanca region of northern Peru. Val is a full-time adventure trek leader and, as such, spends half of every year in Peru leading groups. Her work has taken her into the more remote mountain regions where she became aware of the need to provide lighting for those villages without electricity. During the 10 years that Val has been leading this project, she has visited over 4000 homes, between 17 villages which have no access to a mains power supply -since the project began a decade ago, only two more villages now have access to mains electricity. The portable lights mean that villagers can have light in their homes, enabling them to help anyone who is ill during the night, tend to sick cattle and help their children with school studies in the evening.
The lights require 7 to 8 hours charge in daylight (direct sun is not required) and will provide approx. 4 to 5 hours of light from a single light bulb each night. They are cleaner, cheaper and healthier to use than candles or kerosene. Using LED bulbs, they are also very efficient and draw a fraction of the charge of ordinary incandescent lights. Originally, each unit had approx 21 bulbs and lasted for about 6 years but modern units now have just one LED bulb, which will omit more light than the older versions. The most recent versions will last for approx 15 years and the batteries will need replacing every four years. The village committees are responsible for raising the necessary funds to pay for replacement batteries, which they are able to do. The lights have been a huge success in the villages, especially amongst the children who now have the opportunity to study in better light.
Val now visits about three villages each year and focuses on one district at a time, giving priority to the elderly and widowed women with children. In July 2013, Val installed lights in three villages in the Cordillera Blanca, Yanghiroa, Pastopapcha and Gultwachipa. Cotswold Outdoors have chosen to support this project, among others, donated £2000 towards the lights this year (2013).
Val Pitkethly has recently returned from her 2014 summer adventures in Peru. We can report that she has installed another 200 solar lights in homes and sheep herder settlements around the village of Alpamayo. She also visited several houses to make repairs to lights that were installed on her previous visits. The “Nisamax” lights are manufactured by Ordino in Canada, delivered to Peru FOC and installed by volunteers.