Friends of Nigeria Supports WE CARE Solar
By Sarah Kana on Thursday, May 10th, 2012
When Dr. Laura Stachel, a former obstetrician from Berkeley, California first traveled to Nigeria in 2008, she was astounded by the lack of reliable light, electricity and communication, especially in northern Nigeria’s hospitals and clinics. From Nigeria, she emailed her husband, expressing her concern and desire to help. When she returned home, the couple began to build a kit using solar energy in order to provide light and electricity to African hospitals.
Stachel and her husband’s goal was to create a portable “solar suitcase” which would be able to provide light to hospitals that face chronic power shortages — a situation many healthcare clinics in developing countries face on a daily basis. Having the lights go off during surgery can mean the difference between life and death. The situation can also be critical if you have to wait for daylight to break in order to begin an urgent operation.
“Stachel admits she was not aware of the scale of the problem globally until she began visiting hospitals in developing countries. She estimates that 300,000 health facilities do not have reliable electricity around the world. “There’s a 100-fold higher risk of dying in childbirth in developing countries than here,” she says.” (PBS)
What began as a passion has turned into a full-fledged nonprofit organization- WE CARE Solar (which stands for Women’s Emergency Communication and Reliable Energy).
One of WE CARE Solar’s first supporters was Friends of Nigeria. Although the Peace Corps was only present in Nigeria from 1961-71 and then from 1992-95, Friends of Nigeria (FON) is extremely supportive of initiatives to benefit their former country.
The group, an affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association, is a community of almost 2,000 RPCVs and staff, as well as former VSO (the U.K.-based Volunteers in Service Overseas), CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas) and Teachers for West Africa. The group was formed in 1996 and has been extremely active, especially considering there hasn’t been a Peace Corps presence in the country in almost a decade.
Just two months after hearing the initial report about WE CARE Solar, Friends of Nigeria sent the budding organization $3,000, enough money to purchase two suitcases and to touch hundreds of Nigerians’ lives.
Mike Goodkind, President the of Friends of Nigeria group, explains, “We are always looking for small, concrete projects in Nigeria where our relatively small philanthropic budget can make a discernible impact. In this case, we figured that if we could keep two operating rooms functioning that otherwise would be out of service at critical times. Simple, direct, and useful.”
“The most immediate impact is that crucial operations will have power to continue to save lives. But the strategic implications of this project are enormous. Solar power overall has the potential to leapfrog a highly stressed and often undeveloped power grid in much the same way that cell phones have leapfrogged national wired telephone service. In other words, it may be more practical in many countries for the government and other entities to forgo building an expensive traditional, high capital investment power grid (coal, hydroelectric, etc.,) and instead concentrate on localized sources of solar power for all or most uses. This in fact is what happened with cell phones in many African and other developing countries. Cell phones are ubiquitous, while landlines are rare and usually unavailable. The solar suitcase and the underlying concept demonstrates the effectiveness and overall efficiency of solar power, especially in nations such as Nigeria with long periods of sunlight.”
WE CARE Solar is in need of Solar Ambassadors — a great role for a future Peace Corps Volunteers or RPCVs (particularly women) who want to go back overseas. Solar Suitcase Ambassadors will take a leadership role in solar suitcase installations and solar training in developing countries. Learn more about becoming a Solar Ambassador.