On August 4th, 2018, we got off a 4-hour flight departing at 4 AM in the morning. We had flown from Jakarta to NTT. That flight was followed by a one-and-a-half hour drive to Umutnana where the roads weren’t exactly delightful. At the end of the trip, something got me smiling. When we arrived, I saw the water pipes being installed, and children in the village splashing and playing around the overflowing water. The moment I saw them, I jumped out of the car and ran to them. I was filled with so much joy, and it only strengthened my belief in the work that Solar Chapter can do.
When I talk about Solar Chapter, I can only tell it from my perspective, as an outsider who didn’t know anything, but fell in love with all its work and purpose. Solar Chapter was created when I was a freshman in Illinois. I didn’t join Solar Chapter until later in the semester. I wasn’t even the first freshman to join Solar Chapter, that honor goes to Jeffrey Ryan. It was from him I had a glimpse into Solar Chapter. From Jeffrey and also Mustika, the founder of Solar Chapter, I learned a lot about the organization. As an Indonesian myself, I thought this was a great cause, more so because there were a lot of non- profit organizations on campus, but none had efforts focused in Indonesia. I didn’t realize it back then, but Solar Chapter embodied so much more than what I thought. Solar Chapter was filled by people who may not have as much experience as other non-profits, but we still had to convince stakeholders that we were capable of building the project. The members were willing to give their time and work for a project that, for all we know, can go down the drain if we didn’t get the funding they needed. It may sound cliché, but our founder, Mustika, was the source of inspiration for the team. I had seen how Mustika went about things, overworking herself to fulfill her goal. I soon realized that I had only scratch the surface. By December 2018, we had accumulated all the funds needed and was able to execute our first ever project.
Fast forward to this January 2019, I visited Umutnana to watch over the implementation. The personal impact from this trip was indescribable. The villagers were living in less than desirable living conditions and they shared with us all their kindness, but it was the look in their eyes that impacted me the most. When we start talking about our project, their eyes sparkled and there was so much hope in the room. Umutnana had two failed projects before, so when another project comes along, they can only hope that this time the water will come to stay. Being a member of Solar chapter isn’t about only doing something good, rather it’s also about making their hopes come true.
I came back to University of Illinois with a new profound perspective. Solar Chapter’s success on our first project had a rippling effect. People were reaching out to us to look for ways to help out, learning about our vision and mission. My many encounters with people always brought a smile to my face. As I said to many who supports us, their involvement is worth so much more than donations. Their interest was what allowed us to create two new branches, one in University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who implemented their education project in August, and Purdue, who are starting their water project in Desa Anapalu. This success also gave us the confidence to go forward with the non-profit legalization of Solar Chapter which would open so much more opportunities for us.
" Seeing the children play with the water, seeing the people obtain the water from the public faucets, and also seeing the joy and thankfulness they expressed to us made me realize that this is what we’re working for. That we’re not doing this for our joy of creating something great, but to realize the joy in their life. "
Thank you for reading,
Peter Kanisius Siborutorop