Access to electricity is arguably the most critical factor in any equation aimed at shifting communities from abject poverty to self-sustainability. In rural Haiti electricity is rare, and in the darkness families are locked in grinding poverty. Without plumbing the people are exposed to disease; without light opportunities to change their lot are few.
It's difficult for most of us to imagine life without electricity and it is easy to forget how critical it is to our way of life. Electricity releases us from living on the schedule of sunrises and sunsets and allows us to choose how long we will work and play. We can move about freely at night, and we have access to information and entertainment 24 hours a day. Like the air we breathe, electricity is so critical to our way of life that we don't even think about it until our access to it is cut. When we lose power we flail in the dark anxiously awaiting its return.
Not wishing to jinx agreements in the works my blogging has lapsed, but I am happy to announce that we will be very, very busy this summer working on new programs aimed at bringing not only electricity to homes, but sustainable enterprise to rural Haiti. The IEEE's Community Solutions Initiative group built and donated nine new SunBlazer units for deployment in Haiti. In agreement with IEEE/CSI, Sirona capitalized upon this opportunity by partnering with USAID to deploy these units in the St. Marc commune this summer. USAID paid for these units and with that funding Sirona will build and deploy nine more units in Haiti this fall thereby doubling the donation from IEEE/CSI for the benefit of an additional 747 homes in Haiti. In addition we will be adding 240 more kits to the six units that are currently operating in Haiti.
The USAID grant is aptly titled: 747 Points of Light because 747 homes will get electricity and nine new small business franchises will service these homes. Because we base everything upon our model for sustainable economic development, this grant funds nine new businesses that sustain themselves and supply affordable energy for the long term. This USAID grant is one of empowerment, not charity giving the people in 747 homes the power to change their lives, literally. Length of day will no longer be dictated by sunrise and sunset; cell phones will stay charged for communication and cell phone charging will become an income generating opportunity for the family; radios play music and news; and children can study. There is much to do, and we look forward to sharing the story here with regular updates.
We wish to thank IEEE/CSI for the incredible partnership we have enjoyed. The work of countless volunteers is beginning to create a wave of change and it has taken many people many hours to get us all this far. As to USAID, we thank the American people. Please follow our work to see the positive effect that development funding can have when applied to sustainable projects. Through collaboration we are truly pushing back the darkness and the poverty that darkness enfolds.