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SkyFire’s Culture of Giving Back Pays off for a Small Community in India

As a Certified B Corporation, SkyFire is committed to creating a conscious culture that engages staff, builds relationships and honors our core values. Volunteer work is a great way for employees to work together outside of the office, build relationships, to engage in their community and develop a sense of pride around making a difference, especially for those in greatest need or most vulnerable.

As an organization, SkyFire Energy believes strongly in Corporate Social Responsibility and using business as a force for good. Our staff gives back through voluntary roles in the solar industry, with significant individual commitments over our history. While non-profits such as Light Up The World and Heart & Solar are near to our collective hearts, among others are also common.

SkyFire’s VP Sales, Greg Sauer, recently embarked on a humanitarian mission to southern India with Habitat for Humanity India through their “Global Village” program. For Greg, this was his second Global Village with the first build in southern Vietnam. The experience was a heart-warming story wherein shelter is being brought to a tribal community in need.

Greg and a small team of nine Canadians spent seven days onsite in the small remote village outside of the small (by India standards) city of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry). The goal of the project is to build housing and infrastructure for families who currently live in small (~150ft2) huts with thatched leaf roof and walls and mud floors and with no toilet facilities. Sadly, these tribal families have endured extensive discrimination and have only recently been recognized as citizens in the eyes of their government. Part of the discrimination (especially the children at school)

arises due to their lack of housing. Sadly, even in 2019, some members of this community are bonded labourers (i.e. they are being held against their wishes as a slave as security against a loan or when they inherit a debt from a relative). The tribal community who live in unity with dogs, cats, goats, chickens, and cows largely participate in agricultural pursuits working in rice and sugar cane fields for others. Once known for their adept skills in capturing dangerous snakes and rats, new regulations which prevent this activity have necessitated them to diversify their skills, while no doubt still working among snake and rat populations.

The work can best be described as physically exhausting and gruelling but also the most rewarding work that one can engage in. Imagine for a moment digging large holes (6 x 3 m3) in heavy, saturated clay in +33°C, 100% humidity and the most rudimentary of hand tools. Then, as the earth was removed, the heavy monsoon-like rains would fill the holes and erode more saturated clay. This is Habitat and the hard-working group could not have been happier to do it. There was jubilation with which this group of like-minded individuals from BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan attacked their work, easily exceeding the daily goals set by the Habitat staffers. As a result, the group purchased three large dump-truck loads of fill material to help achieve the desired grade along the villages new access road. This material was again distributed by hand in a most ant-like manner demonstrating the efficiency of many hands contributing to a common goal.

Although they didn’t complete as much as they would have liked (no walls were raised), the foundations were firmly established for this 300ft2 Community Centre (about the same size as a home), the last official building that Habitat will be building for the Irula Tribal families.  Notes Greg, “one could point to many highlights, but perhaps not surprising is that the personal connections with the Irula families were the most remarkable. Working barefoot (don’t tell Habitat!) and soiled, head-to-toe, alongside the youth of the community to dig the holes and pour concrete; and the proud new homeowners, young and old, to distribute the soil, were great. But getting to know the kids via visits to the school and through the dedication ceremony really speaks to what was being achieved here. A sense of pride and a future for people who have likely had limited quantities of each”.

While there is always much more to be done, the awareness and perspective gained during this relatively short trip have created a lasting inspiration. An Inspiration which is best shared and built upon. While the Irula will soon move into their 22 homes and be able to utilize their new community center the community is not complete. The Irula are currently still living in their huts as they await power and in a show of solidarity among the community. A new temple will also be constructed in the not-too-distant future and new homes will be constructed to accommodate growing families (as marriages occur).

Recognizing the importance of this cause to Greg and for the Irula, SkyFire staff and business partners are raising money to continue the project. The cost to connect each home to the grid is 7,500 rupees (~$150 CDN) or ~$3,500 for all of the 23 buildings (yes, we get the irony and solar for these buildings is a longer-term goal). SkyFire’s annual year-end party saw SkyFire staff and their partners opening their wallets to the tune of $910.00 dollars and SkyFire will be making an additional contribution. Our friends at Alltrade also became aware of the project and were given  to contribute to the cause upon hearing about Greg’s experience and passion to make a difference.

Much more local relative to India, in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season, a group of SkyFire’s Calgary staff is volunteering at the Calgary Interfaith Foodbank on December 14. “The FoodBank is just minutes from our head office location and our staff is pleased to be able to support our community members,” says Nicole Boisvert Marketing and Culture Manager.” It is also a great way to build workplace relationships which is the foundation for great culture.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Habitat for Humanity Global Village program and future opportunities to participate in India or locations around the world, please follow the above link or feel free to contact Greg at greg@skyfireenergy.com or 403.930.5607

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact SkyFire at:

Calgary – 403-251-0668

Edmonton – 780-474-8992

Regina – 306-952-6235

Penticton – 778-476-8149

 

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