Round 3: Students for Solar, Haiti

July 30, 2016 by Jacob Seyle

This trip marked the third round of One Million Lights projects in Haiti. Last year, we distributed lights to several villages in Northern Haiti, near the town of Terrier Rouge. The purpose of this trip was to target a more rural area of Haiti, the small island of La Gonâve. Another purpose of the trip was to revisit the villages we distributed to in Round Two and check the condition and usage of the lights in those communities.

This year Will and I were hosted by Isley Noel, who provided guidance, translation and all around support every step of our trip. We chose to distribute 30 d.light s20 lanterns, along with two larger BBOXX BB 17 solar kits. The lanterns were intended for use in smaller buildings. The larger systems included 3 LED bulbs with on/off switches, a portable battery pack, and a portable solar panel. With these systems, the battery can be charged during the day and power the lights for use at night. The battery also had USB ports and came with universal adapters, which could charge electronics and phones of almost any model. They were intended for use in larger buildings serving as community centers.

Our first community selected for distribution in La Gonave was Terre Blanche. The main building in this town was a church that also served as an occasional school and the center of the community. One of the BBOXX BB 17 systems went to this building, as they rely on a large gas generator to power strings of christmas lights as their only form of light in the building. Pastor Wilson, also considered the community leader of Terre Blanche, was overjoyed and thankful to have received this system. When we set it up, the whole community came to give their thanks and celebrate in this gift. The next day, we began distributing the d.light lanterns to homes in the vicinity of Terre Blanche. Overall, these solar lights impacted the lives of hundreds in this community.

The next community to receive lights was the village called Zeb Guinea. Similar to Terre Blanche, the main building in the village was a church, also serving as a school and community gathering place. We chose the other large solar system for this building. Pastor Fernand was the leader of this community and was intent on talking to his community about One Million Lights, and explaining why Will and I chose to become involved. The people of Zeb Guinea were very welcoming and interested in our project. They thanked us for the gift and greeted us with big smiles and hugs of appreciation. The homes in this village were just like those in Terre Blanche; mostly small, one room mud and stick huts with no windows. The remaining lanterns were distributed here because having to navigate rocky, loose terrain to fetch water from the central well was difficult in the dark. As soon as that night we could see people using their lanterns. We feel very thankful to have made a difference in this community of roughly 200 amazing people.

After leaving La Gonave, we traveled by ferry to the mainland and drove north to Terrier Rouge. It was wonderful to see all of our friends from the previous trip still doing well. Over the last days of our trip we drove to Juchereau, Paulette, and made phone contact with the leader of Ouvray to check on the status of the lights, and how the community liked having them. Each of the villages were very careful about keeping the systems dry, clean and locked up when not in use. All but one of the systems was still working in full order. It was really wonderful to see that these systems worked well for the schools and after a year had become fully integrated into the daily life of these communities.

Will and I would like to thank our hosts Isley Noel and Vallace, both of whom were essential in bridging the language barrier and facilitating the distribution and travel during our trip. Another thanks to Jennifer Greene of One Million Lights for organizing this trip. Without her this project would not have been fulfilled.

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