Jimi Hendrix once sang that the story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye: the story of love is hello, and goodbye.

People have often asked us, "So, what is the Chapter W story? How did you guys come about?" I cannot claim to speak on behalf of the other co-founders. Their stories are their own to tell. But I am certain that passion, being part of a cause larger than oneself, a feeling that there are many things in the world that are not 'right', and a desire to make a difference; all these elements would be the complex knots that would tie all our stories together.

My story began when a massive tsunami hit Aceh in 2004. I visited the place several times after the disaster. And I noticed that something was not right. Here is a place where an unimaginable amount of help was being given but many types of aid turned out to be unsuitable. I saw toilets for newly built homes being turned into store rooms. Nobody knew it was culturally alien for the Acehnese in rural areas to have toilets located within their homes. In the hustle and bustle of recovery, no one asked the Acehnese what they really needed. No one involved them. Yet, I sense a tremendous amount of restlessness, energy and resourcefulness amongst them. In one of the survivor's camp, I saw a woman turning part of her tent into a mini convenience store.

Many, many years later, when the chance came to contribute back, I think the dots eventually connected: Figure out what is really lacking and involve the poor actively as part of the process. Why treat the rural poor as passive recipients of aid when they can be so much more than that?

There is this little story that one of the women we trained told us. She once demonstrated a 'drop test' to a group of women who was having lunch. The 'drop test' simply meant dropping the solar lamp from a certain height to show how durable it was-the lamp will not break, the audience gets a shock and everyone usually breaks off in relieved laughter over how silly they had reacted. But then she told us, "But the lamp did not just drop. It bounced and then entered the soup bowl." She described the event with relish, like a schoolgirl hit with an awareness that she had just broken a school rule but did not get caught.

Jimi Hendrix may be right. That life is short and our stories are by nature, brief. But that does not stop us from doing something enduring. Her story was not just about a bouncing lamp landing into someone else's lunch bowl. It was something more lasting. She was the quietest amongst the first batch of women we trained. She hardly spoke. And then she grew. And now she has all these stories to pass on to her children.

Fairoz Ahmad
Executive Director


“There is a gender dimension in energy poverty: Women suffer from the consequences of energy poverty much more than men“.





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