Friday, October 7, 2011

SOLAR - This is Life Changing Stuff!

When we were here in 2009, we visited Kwaimatta Village for the first time.  While we were there we noticed their solar system, which the headmistress explained was to pump water for the school.  At that time they were having some difficulties with it.  It is a new “science”.  There are not many people who understand the maintenance or repair of solar systems.  It was explained to us that those who were trained lived very far away on the coast and it was very expensive to have them come all the way for a repair in one small village.
When we arrived back in 2010, the solar system in Kwaimatta village had still not been repaired.  Dr. Lucy was with us and so the thought process started working.  We brought with us, 13 Solar Panels and a large inverter, which was all given to us by Damian, Salvador’s son.  Damian is one of the few true experts in this field and what he gave us was really professional grade equipment, but it wasn’t a complete system and there wasn’t a Solar engineer in the Rupununi to set it up, even if it were.
Dr. Lucy’s brain is like a Rubik cube. She knows there is an answer; she just has to figure it out.  And so she began.  A few days later, she thought she had a possible solution… and shortly thereafter the Response Program Coordinator for the Peace Corps Guyana arrived at Karanambu to meet with us and discuss an answer to Lucy’s question;

“Is it possible to recruit a Solar Engineer through the Peace Corps; use the Solar Equipment at Karanambu; and use Karanambu as a classroom for the neighboring communities to TEACH them how to set up, maintain and use their Solar equipment effectively.”

The answer was YES!

That was August 2010.  Together we wrote a job description that was posted by the Peace Corps.   
Robin answered the post and SHE arrived in March.  In our communities, it was assumed that a MAN must have been coming, because who had ever heard of a WOMAN ENGINEER! (Solar no less??).  Well, not only is Robin a woman, but as Diane says, “And a really good looking one too!” (ha ha).
Robin riding her bicycle to Massara Village with Susie
She followed procedure to the letter.  She visited all of the neighboring villages.  She started teaching Solar classes every Tuesday. 
Solar Class at Karanambu
Every Tuesday people came from neighboring villages
Everyone was learning about Solar Energy
As Robin began to put together a plan for setting up the system at Karanambu, she stayed in close touch with Damian. In the back of the kitchen garden a solar house was built to store all of the batteries and the inverter…the Solar Panels were placed on top of the roof.
Solar House under construction
Solar House completed
It wasn’t long before we all realized that we needed a great deal of additional funding, without the batteries and other necessary items, there was no way we could set up the system.  Again, Lucy came to the rescue.  She knew of a foundation that supports non-profit work in developing countries. It was a lot of money, but she called them and inquired and they said, “YES!”  The next part of the question was how to make a tax deductible donation to the project?  Lucy wrote to the Peace Corps and asked if a donation could be made to them, earmarked for "The Guyana Community Solar Project" at Karanambu?

Once again the answer was YES!

After what seemed like forever, but only a matter of weeks, Robin went into Georgetown to receive the funds and started purchasing the necessary items to complete the project.
Carlos and Tieche, were two of Robins most dedicated students.  They came to help her, every step of the way.
As the panels were being installed
Everyone was involved and everyone was interested!
FINALLY, after weeks of work,
 Everything checked out!
And the rewiring began. Step by step.
Robin laying the new wire
All the wire was placed underground
 And then one cabin after another, the lights went on and the generator went off!

The very first night we had guests.  It was the following morning that we began to understand the significance.  The gentleman had some serious medical issues.  The wife commented on how nice it was to get up in the middle of the night and be able to flick the switch and SEE what needed to be done. 

For the very first time –ever– the staff was able to turn on the lights in the kitchen at 4:30 in the morning to make coffee and prepare breakfast.  All of these years it has been by candle light.

And Robin’s students who are members of the neighboring communities of Kwaimatta, Massara and Yupakari did all of the work.
Carlos rewires the outlets in the Trust Office
This is life-changing stuff!  Life changing for all of us at Karanambu.  Life changing for the neighboring communities.  Life changing for all of the students who helped Robin step by step and will now go on to help their own communities.

Robin will be leaving us soon and we will miss her so!   We simply cannot imagine life here without her.  But every time we turn on the light, hear the silence of no generator, have a cold cold cold drink, we will think of Robin and thank her for all that she has done for us.  Again, without the Peace Corps and without our very generous donor in the United States and without Damian, none of this would have been possible.

Special thanks from all of us!

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