In August 2014 I traveled to Taveuni, the Garden Island of Fiji, with a treasure trove: a box of 60 Little Suns, the gift of light for school children.
I had been visiting Taveuni for many years, at first for conducting experiments for my underwater research projects, and more recently to give back as part of CSAIL’s Imara outreach program. The generous and friendly people of Taveuni have always provided support for our work and it is rewarding to give back.
The Imara program started in 2007 as a computer literacy program. Jack Costanza and I traveled to Taveuni with a donation of laptops for computer literacy. Every school on the island received one laptop equipped with software for learning basic computer skills and software for learning maths, writing, and science. We conducted Teach the Teacher sessions to empower the teachers to use the computers in their classrooms. The schools on Taveuni do not have power, but the principal’s house does. Every night the principal can charge the computer. A different teacher and a different group of students get to use each day. Since 2007 I returned to Taveuni regularly with donations of various school supplies and I helped with the school curricula.
Most families on Taveuni live in villages without infrastructure. Some villages have a generator which provides them with a few hours of electricity each day, but this is not enough for the students’ homework. The children walk to school and back, often for several miles, often bare-footed, and without many school supplies. They all wear uniforms.
The Little Suns, the magical gift of light, was a perfect gift for the kids of Taveuni. They now use the Little Suns to do homework after dark, to light their path, and to help in their homes. The 2014 project was a pilot project: we had enough units to give one to every 5th, 6, 7th, and 8th grader of one school on the island, the Naselesele school. Because many families have several children in the school, we allocated one Little Sun per family to ensure the broadest benefit. The gifts were received with extraordinary wonder, delight, and smiles. I plan to return to Taveuni in 2015 with more Little Suns for the children of Taveuni.