We have been working to deploy the nine SunBlazers built in the last two weeks in Port au Prince. The IEEE donated the equipment, and a crew of seven Haitians installed the components and prepared the units for the field. This program is paid for by a grant from USAID (a huge thank you to the American taxpayers for their generosity!) to bring light and sustainable business to villages in the six communes of St. Marc, Haiti.
Monday was our training day. All nine Operators with their assistants came for training which took place at the Le Gou-T hotel in St. Marc. The Operators were trained both on the technical aspects of the machine (we towed one in for them to see the set-up process) as well as business training. Each village will operate a franchise for the newly formed Haitian corporation, Sirona Haiti, S.A. Their clients must pay 250 Haitian Gourdes, or $6.25 per month, to receive unlimited access to recharges at the SunBlazer station. Haitians are very entrepreneurial, and merging their business style with the American style is our goal. With six stations in operation for over a year we are gaining momentum and stable business practices.
Tuesday we deployed in the middle of the Artibonite, which is Haiti's breadbasket. As far as you can see rice patties extend in all directions. The deployment was extremely difficult because it required ramp after ramp to be made from boards for the 3,000 lb. unit to cross the waterways in the rice fields. Time after time villagers jumped into the mud and pushed with all their might. The machine ultimately arrived in its destination and with great joy we showed them their new light kits, or Ti Soley kits (which translates to "Little Sun").
That night as we left the community, which was still singing, we looked back and saw that the only light visible on the horizon in any direction was the point of light radiating from that center. It was amazing to realize how far from electricity this community was, and how unlikely it was that anything was going to happen here if we had not been able to do our job.
It is our mission to deliver light in the context of sustainable business. This encourages, empowers, and is transformational. This was an excellent day!