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Solar Energy International and WE CARE Solar Bring Solar Suitcases to Sierra Leone

Posted by: april
February 10, 2012

By Laurie Guevara-Stone, Solar Energy International's
International Program Manager

WE CARE Solar and Solar Energy International recently partnered to help bring solar suitcases to Sierra Leone. Solar Energy International PV instructor Carol Weis (pictured below) traveled with WE CARE Solar Solar Energy International PV instructor Carol Weis reviews how to mount the solar panel and suitcase with her driver, Saidu, and local volunteers in Sierra Leone.founder Dr. Laura Stachel to the West African country to install seven solar suitcases and train local health care workers and technicians. They also met with different UN and government agencies, and visited numerous health clinics to gain a better understanding of the local needs, medical services provided, building materials, and installation considerations. 

Carol and Laura are happy to report that the solar suitcases are all now in clinics! In all, the trip to Sierra Leone featured: 

  • Seven solar suitcases
  • Numerous visits to hospitals and PHUs (public health units)
  • Trainings with midwives and MCH aides
  • Interviews and meetings with doctors, UNFPA, and officials from the Ministry of Health
  • Births, and C-sections using the solar suitcases
  • Villages receiving their first electricity

Amazing work, Carol and Laura! It has all been tremendous. One of the villages Carol and Laura stopped at was called Mapotolon, near the border of Guinea. 

Health workers in Ngalu spontaneously sing and dance when they learn they will be receiving solar lights and cell phone charging! Until now, there was NO electricity in this village."When we arrived, the healthcare workers made up a song on the spot and the entire village came to celebrate the moment," Carol said. "Laura was one of four featured guests on Sierra Leone's National Broadcasting Corporation's 'Good Morning Sierra Leone.' After reviewing the locations of the seven new solar suitcase installations, the two TV hosts asked about future installations and plans for long-term maintenance. They hoped that this project would be replicated throughout the country. After the show, we ran into several people in Freetown who recognized Laura from the TV program, and voiced their support for the project."

Laura was happy to share the photo on the right (pictured below with Isha Daramy-Kabia) and her experiences from the road as well.

"Carol, Lisa Russell, Isha WE CARE Solar founder Dr. Laura Stachel and Isha Daramy conduct an educational session in English (Laura) and Pidgin (Isha) on solar suitcase technology.Daramy-Kabia and I are traveling across Sierra Leone, visiting community health clinics, and meeting the most wonderful people," she said. "Lisa is filming the joy and excitement of Sierra Leonians as they envelop us with music and dancing during our installations. Isha has taken on organizing logistics and juggling our schedule between Ministry of Health officials, TV crews, and community clinics. Carol is engaging villagers in solar installations, and her enthusiasm for solar is contagious. Isha and I balance clinical coaching with solar trainings. Today, shortly before beginning our solar curriculum, Isha and I diagnosed severe pre-eclampsia in a young woman and got her transferred to a hospital; we then taught the health workers how to use a fetal doppler and improve their diagnostic skills."

Learn more about bringing renewable energy technologies to rural communities in SEI's RD101: Renewable Energy for the Developing World hands-on workshop June 25-29 in Carbondale, Colorado.

And, visit WE CARE Solar and learn how solar suitcases bring lights, power and hope to health facilities in regions without reliable electricity. To see more photos from Carol and Laura's trip to Sierra Leone, visit the WE CARE Solar Facebook photo album.

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