Power and Light Bearers to The Father's Houses in UgandaRich Stigall
Co-founder Dr. Laura Stachel went to Northern Nigeria in 2008 to study ways to lower maternal mortality in state hospitals. She witnessed deplorable conditions in state facilities including sporadic electricity that impaired maternity and surgical care. Without a reliable source of electricity, nighttime deliveries were attended in near darkness, cesarean sections were cancelled or conducted by flashlight, and critically ill patients waited hours or days for life-saving procedures. The outcomes were often tragic.
Laura wrote to her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy educator back in Berkeley, California. Together, Laura and Hal co-founded We Care Solar to improve maternal health outcomes in regions without reliable electricity.
A Portable Solution
Hal created a suitcase-sized prototype of the hospital solar electric system. When Laura returned to Nigeria toting the “solar suitcase,” her Nigerian colleagues immediately grasped its significance.
Diane Sawyer, of ABC highlights the powerful story, “Let there be light” in celebrating Dr. Laura as the person of the week.
Since that auspicious beginning, We Care Solar now has over 400 solar suitcases piercing the darkness with powerful life saving light all over the world.
Five years later, on January 21, 2013, We Care Solar launched We Share Solar. We Share Solar is the educational program of We Care and supports schools and orphanages through student-built solar suitcases. Hal Aronson, Program Director of We Share Solar, explains that, “We Share Solar serves youth twice…first as an educational experience for American youth and second as a renewable power and lighting system for youth in parts of the world that lack electricity.”
We Share Solar teachers gathered initially with forty students. Together they built ten We Share Solar Suitcases, five of which are destined for the developing world.
Hal Aronson and Laura Stachel opened the workshop by teaching the students about energy poverty, sustainable development and how circuits and the flow of electricity works through diagram drawings. The students were then divided into teams of four; each table was assigned an instructor. They opened their beautiful blue suitcases filled with the components of a We Share Solar Suitcase and identified each of the parts. Together the teams completely assembled the Solar Suitcases and commissioned their systems. They held their solar panels up to the sky, watched their batteries fill with solar energy, and monitored the current coming in and out of the Solar Suitcase using the system’s charge controller. Then they performed the ultimate test. The students turned on efficient LED lights and…much to their delight…charged their own cell phones! Power and Light! This is such an amazing opportunity for youth in the US to gain solar technology as a means to make a significant difference globally for vulnerable children who live in energy poverty in the developing world. Packing a suitcase here with power to change lives there—the blessings flow both ways—that is both brilliant and powerful!
The story of a small, simple appearing, yet powerful solar suitcase, has drawn collaborators all over the globe. Community leadership from the Church of Uganda’s ministry to orphaned and abandoned children in their parish children’s homes, known as The Father’s House, connected with We Share Solar. The results were “electrifying!”
Plans quickly were underway. We Share Solar’s generosity became the current of bearing gifts of light. Students in California and New Jersey were instructed, assembled, and packed the components–bright blue suitcase by suitcase. Then they were shipped for delivery to The Global Orphan Project US office.
Recently, I traveled with two different teams to Uganda to hand deliver a total of 24 solar suitcases to be installed at the Father’s House children’s homes in Kabale, Lira, Gulu & Rukore. Upon installation in Kabale, Mama Mary flipped the switch. Great smiles and laughter erupted as shiny faces were illuminated for the very first time with sustainable solar/ electrical LIGHT! Laughter grew into a song and dance of rejoicing. This was indeed a bright shining moment I will always celebrate.
The Father’s House Mamas and children will now have light in the evening –to share supper around the table, complete school work and read in their homes. The community room will also have light for evening meetings & workshops for the teachers, children and community.
The power of collaboration is true community. Thank you to all the students in California and New Jersey who chose to learn about solar technology and assemble bright blue suitcases that would powerfully change lives. Thank you to Kabale University for assistance in installation. Thank you most of all to founders Hal & Laura whose hearts have brought to light great compassion, care and service to our global community!
The gift of power and light—to read to learn to share together—to create community.
Thank you, We Share Solar!