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

Posted by: april
April 18, 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.

In Part Two 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 below (far right), in Haiti with SEI solar champion Walt Ratterman (far left), who perished in the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Carol Weis, Walt Ratterman in HaitiHolly: What have been some of your greatest "a-ha" moments in your work and travels?

Carol:  My personal "a-ha" moments in MY education in rural electrification are equally big and influence me as a teacher - with each visit I see more and more how the people I work with live; and I understand in greater detail the need for RE at health care facilities. 

For instance, once I stayed at a hospital for three days which had no solar panels or fuel for the generator. I watched as the hospital ran, without any electricity, day and night with a full load of patients. All night, we listened to women giving birth in the dark maternity ward. The doctors complained to us about having to use flashlights in the intensive care unit to give someone an IV. On the second day, we heard the generator turn on and I excitedly told someone that I thought a shipment of fuel had been delivered to the hospital. No, he corrected me, the hospital needed to temporarily turn the generator on to cool the morgue -it was getting too hot.

That was my first true glimpse into what it means to not have electricity in a hospital and the choices that the health care workers and technicians have to make on a daily level.

Another educational moment for me came when simply trying to access some of the hospitals.  Crossing river after river to reach a remote hospital made me realize how difficult it is to get sick people out of their communities, to get fuel to remote hospitals, and the difference on-site solar can make.

Holly: Why do you take weeks to travel to far away, often to "scary" places to install PV? 

Carol: Sometimes I volunteer my time on projects, because even though they do not have funding, the projects are worthy of doing. I will only go on a project if I will be training the local people on renewable energy to build the region's technical capacity, as I feel it is critical that there is someone on the ground in-country that understands the system when there is a problem. 

When you ask about going to "scary" places - the term scary is subjective and places typically get labeled that way because of the media reporting more of the bad than of the good. In my travels, I have found people to be welcoming and warm when I am partnering with local people who are working hard to make their country better.

Holly: Who, or what, inspired (or inspires) you to do the things you do? 

Carol: I am constantly inspired by people that I read about, and know, who are putting the greater good of humanity above personal gain. Mainly, though, it is the people that I meet in my classes who are bright-eyed and eager to learn, and the hospital workers who work long hours to give care to people in desperate areas, who inspire me to work harder.

Did you miss the previous blog linked to this series? No problem! Read Part One.

Stay tuned during Earth Week 2012 for Part Three of this in-depth look into Carol's valuable work in the field.

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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