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Cambodian monks power their pagoda with the sun

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Julie Masis

(Read caption) Phok Ros poses near a solar-powered building.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

On the roof where monks pray, a black panel faces the sun. The Por Meas Pagoda in this village about an hour from Cambodia’s capital is not connected to the electric grid, but this summer the eight monks and 10 orphans who live there got electricity for the first time – from solar panels.

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It is not the only Cambodian pagoda that is using solar energy. A nongovernmental organization called Pico Sol Cambodia has installed panels at four rural pagodas since 2009, thanks to a Dutch philanthropist, according to the NGO’s chairman, Ly Senleap.

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At Por Meas, monks used to pray before sunrise using incense sticks for light. Sometimes they would fall asleep and burn their books, says senior monk Phok Ros. Now the pagoda has eight lamps – in the meeting room, bedrooms, dining room, bathrooms, and outside.