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Part Three: How Solar Energy International's Carol Weis is Making a Difference Globally

Posted by: april
April 21, 2012

Holly Loff, Solar Energy InternationalBy Holly Loff, Solar Energy International Development Associate

April 16-22 is not just Earth Week, it is also Solar Energy International's spring fundraising campaign week. Please make a donation today to support the valuable outreach programs of SEI, such as the Native American program, Solar In the Schools, Walt Ratterman and Heather Andrews scholarship funds, and our International Program.

In an effort to highlight the work of one of those programs, specifically the International Program, I sat down with Carol Weis, SEI's PV Program Coordinator and PV Instructor, to discuss her travels to install solar internationally. Read Part One and Part Two.

Solar Energy International's Carol WeisIn Part Three of this three-blog series, Carol speaks to her international efforts which epitomize SEI's mission. For SEI, Carol helps write PV curriculum and textbook content, and has instructed nationally as well as internationally, teaching workshops in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua for people interested in international development. Carol has also traveled to Haiti multiple times to deliver trainings to local PV trainers, and to Sierra Leone to train healthcare workers on the use of Solar Suitcases with WE CARE Solar. Carol is pictured here (right), with filmmaker Lisa Russell, midwife Isha Daramy, and WE CARE Solar co-founder and physician Laura Stachel in Sierra Leone.

Holly: You have traveled to Haiti to train the country's future technicians and trainers several times in the last several years, why do you keep going back? 

Carol: Again, it is a personal thing for me - as all of my classes that I teach are. When I teach class and am met with students that crave knowledge so much that it is palpable - then I am hooked and feel tied to the personal futures of my students.

I have been delivering trainings in Haiti for three years now and this last one was a a "train the trainers" course. It was the second, third, or fourth time each of the participants had been in a class of mine - but during this course, they were becoming the trainers. Watching them build their skills over time and seeing them working with some of the most complicated systems in the world, makes me very proud of their perseverance and real skill that they have at this point. They don't really need me to teach them anymore - and most of them have more hospital off-grid experience than me at this point too having worked day-in and day-out with their system for the last 3 years.  They are teaching me a lot now and it is a wonderful thing to experience as a teacher!  And in this "train the trainers" course, I was able to first practice teaching pedagogy and curriculum with them, and then watched them train staff, on-site technicians, and administrators at 2 remote hospitals on their own.  It was so cool and definitely brought a tear to my eye!

Holly: SEI plans to launch a Solar Suitcase Ambassador training program in partnership with WE CARE Solar this year. Many see you as the first "Solar Suitcase Ambassador" thanks to your recent work in Sierra Leone. Can you tell a story about a solar suitcase making a difference? And why is this piece of equipment so critical -and the program so important?

Carol: Currently, most of my time in solar health care has been working on large complicated systems. The solar suitcase is a very simple DC system providing lights, cell phone charging for communication between midwives and doctors, and power for a fetal Doppler. For me, it was eye opening to see how just having a couple of lights could make such a big difference ... And the Solar Suitcase system is laid out so intuitively that, without much training, the hospital workers understood how to work with it. In Sierra Leone, we installed 7 systems in very remote areas with no electricity in the village. These were buildings with just beds and a few medical supplies, which were using small battery operated LED lights that were pretty dim. During child delivery, one of the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) was usually forced to hold the lantern up close so that the midwife could see - basically leaving the TBA incapable of doing anything else, including attending to the patient. After the installations, the Minister of Health said she was convinced she wanted to install them in the 1,200 other remote birthing clinics - if funding could be obtained. 

Have you seen renewable energy make a difference in someone's life? Please share your own stories in the comments below.

If you are inspired by Carol's experiences, please click here and donate now.

Did you miss the previous blogs linked to this series? No problem! Read Part One and Part Two here.

SEI's International Program would not be possible without your support! Click the Donate Now! button  and be sure to indicate "International Program" in the comments area on the donation payment page.



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