I am sitting on top of a mountain, literally, in Haiti. We have made the treacherous drive up hauling a SunBlazer that will provide this community with its first access to electricity. I am not speaking lightly when I say treacherous, as this was a steep, winding one-lane road. At one point we met a large truck coming down too fast and we were lucky enough to both avoid colliding and avoid the truck going off the steep edge. We arrived safely, to a magnificent view and the fresh cool air of the mountains. This community farms coffee, corn, beans, and much more I’m sure. It is very fertile, and absolutely stunning.
As with every deployment, while there are only a few present when we arrive, in time there is a crowd. Boys play, men watch, and the women and girls watch as well from a short distance. The crowd will grow constantly and continue to do so long after our departure, especially here because it is nearly dusk. By the time we are gone, the lights will be on guiding interested villagers to the location to see the milestone that their village has reached today.
Here in rural Haiti there simply is no access to electricity. In even the cities like St. Marc, from which we are operating as a base for this nine-unit deployment, there is little power that does not come from generators at larger businesses and hotels. There is some grid power but for reasons unknown to us there is little evidence of energy that the local utility provides.
The Ti Soley (“Little Sun” in Haitian Kreyol) kits that we provide with lighting kits allow homes to enjoy three lights: two mounted pull-chain bulbs as well as a flashlight on the kit itself. These have lasted our customers for five days on average before needing to be brought to the SunBlazer solar charging station. The station and kits provide enough energy to reach the bottom rung of the Millennium Development Goals with regard to access to electricity. This is a great milestone for our communities. From this base level they can begin to enjoy life without kerosene fumes, and access to communication. They can use a radio and charge their cell phones. Energy changes lives, improves health, and gives those who have access to it opportunities that they would not have without it.
This is a business venture and we have spent a lot of time and energy training our nine new Operators. They are entrepreneurs (as are their customers, who will be charging the phones of neighbors who were not able to access a Ti Soley kit). Revenue generated by a franchise covers monthly maintenance visits, support for the local Operator (school/community development group/etc.) and Sirona’s operations and expansion.