December 16, 2016 / 12:34 PM / 8 months ago

"Light bringers" help Hungary's impoverished Roma power their homes

BICSKE, Hungary, Dec 16 (Reuters) - For Karoly Nemeth, a Roma man who lives with his family in a town just outside Budapest, having electricity in his home is not always guaranteed.

His house is on the grid but the family has a card-operated meter and towards the end of the month, the pre-paid card often runs out.

Nemeth, 42, who has side jobs in construction, lives with his wife, two daughters and son on a monthly income of about 90,000 forints ($300).

With the help of Hungary's Romaversitas Foundation, an NGO, his home has now been equipped with a solar panel.

The electricity generated is stored in a car battery, and solar-charged LED strips attached to a piece of wood light their home in the dim, cold winter evening.

The programme, called "Light bringers", has so far helped 40 families in various parts of Hungary.

"I hope we will save 2,000-3,000 forints this way, and we will buy something for the girls for Christmas," Nemeth says, sitting in his small kitchen heated by a wood-fired stove.

Gabor Daroczi, director of Romaversitas, which helps Roma students from poor families get a college degree, says access to electricity is a big problem for hundreds of thousands of Roma living in poor villages. They are often cut off from the grid as they are unable to pay their bills and fines.

"There is a family we go to in one to two months in Baks (a village nearby) where there is a home without electricity for six years and they use candles," Daroczi said.

Installing the solar-charged system costs about $100 for each home.

$1 = 299 forints Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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