It's 2011 yet in much of Haiti people use candles and kerosene lamps that fill their homes with dangerous fumes. No electrical infrastructure exists in many areas. There are no phone lines, so Haitians use cell phones. People walk long distances and pay to charge their phones. Having access to electric light and power in the home will be life-changing; and access to affordable power is revolutionary.
Sirona Cares has been working with a dedicated group of IEEE volunteers called the CSI (Community Solutions Initiative) for over a year designing a system that promises to bring sustainable change to rural Haiti. Not charity, this endeavor is designed to create businesses and be economically self-sustaining. Sirona surveyed 70 rural communities and we know what people are already paying for kerosene, candles and cell phone charging. The goal of our project is to provide reliable electricity to homes at a price they can afford.
Mobile, solar-based 1.2 kW generating stations are being sent to six areas of rural Haiti this month, each generator has 40 home kits (three lights, wiring, and a DC adaptor for cell-phone charging or use of other small electronics). The generating stations will be run as franchises where each operator leases out 40 home kits and runs a small business with the station's residual electricity. Most operators are planning to run small freezers as their business as ice is a valuable commodity in Haiti. Each month the home customers and station operators will make lease payments for their equipment, and Sirona will train Haitian field operators to maintain the units.
At every level of the project there is opportunity for revenue generation and job creation. Enterprising home kit customers will charge their neighbors cell phones for a modest fee; operators will create businesses; maintenance teams will be trained; and ultimately in-country assembly will begin.
Rather than compete with Government of Haiti utilities, our project compliments their effort to bring power to rural areas. We are creating a base of customers prepared to pay for electricity in their homes; and as utilities reach their areas we will move the generating stations further out into the dark areas of Haiti. Eventually, if the government is able to light every home, we can move the equipment to other countries where the same need exists.
The first six units have left New York, they are in Florida and will be in Haiti shortly. 240 homes will receive affordable, reliable electricity and six new businesses will start this month. We plan to send the components for nine additional units by the end of the year and begin in-country assembly. There are many eyes on this project because potential investors want to see if an economically sustainable project is possible in Haiti. We strongly believe that it is. We have spent enough time on the ground to know that Haitians crave the opportunity for self-reliance beyond charity.