Donor Shares in Pinoys’ Success in 2011 World Solar Car ChallengeRelease Date: 2011-11-05
It’s not everyday that we get to represent our country in the international arena.
Rossini ‘Nini’ Conwi, a WWF donor for two years, had that opportunity when she joined Team Solar Philippines in the recently-concluded 2011 World Solar Car Challenge in Australia.
From October 16 to 23, the Philippines’ Sikat II solar-powered car raced 3000 kilometers from Darwin to Adelaide and competed against the world’s best. The Filipino-made solar car finished 17th among 37 contenders from 20 countries.
Created by a group of De La Salle University (DLSU) engineering students and faculty members, Sikat II is made of lightweight carbon fibre honeycomb composite and weighs less than 180 kilograms, making it the lightest car Team Philippines has designed.
The creation of Sikat II was made possible through the help of the Philippine Solar Car Challenge Society, Inc.
Early this year, WWF-Philippines launched its SIKAT AKO Donor Challenge, which asked its donors to submit their best donor stories and encourage their friends to join the WWF family.
Nini, a mother of two, was among those who responded to WWF’s call for entries.
WWF picked the top four entries, and eventually, Nini gained the top spot.
A portion of Nini’s entry says: “A Philippines which uses more renewable energy resources for our power and transport needs will not only save our environment but our economic future. It is for these reasons that I am calling on all my friends to try investing in your future, the WWF way.”
Speaking to WWF, Nini says: “I did not expect that a donor could be in for such an adventure. I was looking forward to joining the team in this cross-country trip from Darwin to Adelaide. This is one for the bucket list.”
“My friend said that not even Australians can journey from Darwin to Adelaide. That’s when I knew that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she adds.
The Philippine contingent left for Australia in early October, and the hopes were indeed high for the fate of Sikat II in the most prestigious solar car race in the world.
“The kids were big-hearted. To them, nothing was impossible. We knew we were competing against the best in the world. But actually, at the back of our minds, we were aiming for the top,” says Nini.
Nini was tasked to help Harold Geronimo, the PR manager for Team Solar Philippines. Nini also augmented the manpower by doing networking duties in the race’s control stops.
For good measure, Nini also helped by cooking for the team and scouting for places where the Philippine contingent can stay.
The challenges faced by the team were offset by its own resilience, coupled with the generosity extended by the Filipino community in Australia.
Filipino Spirit Unfazed
Perhaps the biggest challenge came on the third day of the race, when one of Sikat II’s battery packs overheated and caught fire while it was being recharged in the Tennant Creek campsite.
More bad news came when they were told that toxic chemicals spilled out of the battery.
“When we were told that the material was toxic, the first thing we asked ourselves was, will the safety officer allow the team to remain in the race? Second, if the officer will allow us, will we be able to finish on time?’”
Nini said that the team held a meeting and some “were on the verge of quitting.” The consensus, however, was to fix the new battery so that Sikat II can still join the race.
The team needed vacuums and compressors, but they didn’t have these in their possession.
Little did they know that it was in these difficult times that help was outpouring—from food to accommodations to the materials they needed to get Sikat II back on track.
A Filipino couple Nini got to know by chance provided the compressors and vacuums needed to repair the solar car. Other Australia-based Filipinos also provided the food while the Philippine team worked all night to repair and rebuild the solar car.
Making the Grade
Unfazed by the delay, the newly-fixed Sikat II hit the ground running the next day and even made a rousing comeback by jumping seven spots.
“We damaged our battery pack, delayed our departure by 3 hours yet we didn't put on trailer and we've overtaken Principia,” Team Solar Philippines said on its Twitter account, referring to the American-made Principia solar car.
By October 23, the last day of the race, Sikat II finished 17th among 37 finalists, besting other entries from Canada, US, Germany, UK, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, among others.
Coming home to the Philippines, Nini can only beam with pride.
“For me, the highlight of the trip was witnessing the ‘never say die’ attitude of the kids, and the people who helped us without hesitation. These are ordinary Filipinos working there, earning their keep, but they are very generous,” says Nini.
Hope for a Greener Philippines
Nini likewise shares that her trip to Australia made her realize that in the Philippines, much remains to be done in terms of harnessing solar power.
“Filipinos are not yet that conscious about using solar power. The case is the same for the government. They may be aware but the action is not there. In Australia, the households there have solar panels. Their government has also incentives for those who use solar panels at home,” shares Nini.
Nonetheless, Nini encourages other Filipinos to care more for the environment and invest in the Planet.
“My donation to WWF is an investment because I’m protecting the environment, which is crucial in determining the country’s future. Instead of depositing the amount in a bank, I donate the money to WWF, which is better, profit-wise,” says Nini.
She also tells her fellow donors that while there may not be another Australian trip up for grabs from WWF soon, there are other donor invitations and events they can look forward to.
“With or without contests like these, your donations will not only benefit you. Conservation is for everybody and taking part in it is not just for our own personal good,” she says.
It has been two years since Nini became part of the WWF family, a journey that began when she was approached by a WWF fundraiser while she was strolling at the mall.
Nini echoes what WWF promoted in its ‘Help us save our Earth’ campaign launch: when we take care of the Planet, it takes care of us.
Says WWF Vice-Chairman and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, "There are many charities and many causes, but we all share one planet. Everything we give to education, health, our church, food programs, disaster relief will go down the drain unless we invest first in the way we manage our planet. Earth comes first. Everything follows.”
Talk to a fundraiser now and lend your voice to our efforts in sustaining our living Planet. You can also visit wwf.org.ph/donate.
For more information:
Individual Donor Program Manager, WWF-Philippines
Communications Officer, WWF-Philippines