Category Archives: Solar Sisters

The Solar Sisters are back!

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

Hi this is Emmanuel,

After a hard six months of training, our special team of ladies, The Solar Sisters from Rwanda, are back and ready to bring electricity to their home villages!

In March 2012, the Gorilla Organization, along with the Government of Rwanda ,UNESCO and the Government of India sent a team of four illiterate women to India to receive special training at the Barefoot College to become solar energy engineers. This project will be benefiting two sectors including Musanze of Musanze district, (Northern Province of Rwanda) and Bugeshi of Rubavu district (Western Province of Rwanda).

If you remember, a few months ago, the first team of Solar Sisters from DR Congo came back from the training in India and successfully installed electricity in the Rusayo village. They also held a couple of demonstrations in Burusi and Ngitse and the plan was to solar electrify 50 houses in each of the two villages surrounding Mount Tshiabirimu (area of Virunga National Park, DR Congo).

The Solar Ladies from Rwanda arrived in mid-September at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and the excitement took over the place as you can see in the photographs. They were so happy to come back to their families and friends, but most importantly for having learned so much bringing along a lot of benefits to their villages, like giving the children the possibility of study after it’s gone dark and their parents the chance to work past dusk.

I will be sure to keep you posted with more news and updates about this, but for now let’s congratulate our ladies for coming back home safe and sound and for their great achievement in becoming experts in solar energy!

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Solar power coming soon to Burusi and Ngitse

The Solar Sisters setting up and installing the first solar panel at the maternity ward of the Burusi health clinic

The Solar Sisters setting up and installing the first solar panel at the maternity ward of the Burusi health clinic

Hi, this is Tuver,

As you know, fighting and general unrest here can make it difficult for us to carry out our work here in DR Congo. Right now, the general insecurity and problems being experienced at Mount Tshiabirimu mean we haven’t been able to transport the solar system equipment we received earlier in the year to the villages of Burusi and Ngitse. As I write this, the equipment is still at Goma but it is secure and all ready to go once the situation gets better.

The good news is that our ladies, the incredible Solar Sisters, already held a demonstration in Burusi to show how the solar panels are put together and how they work. This demonstration was led by the mwami leader of this village and it was a complete success! This first solar panel has already been installed in the maternity ward of the Burusi health clinic, giving this important public health facility a vital source of reliable power.

Once the solar panels and the rest of the equipment arrive in Burrusi and Ngitse, the plan is to solar electrify 50 houses in each of the two villages surrounding Mount Tshiabirimu. This will give local people the opportunity to have electricity in their homes, allowing families to carry on with activities at night and in the early morning.

I would like to thank local radio stations in the area that have been broadcasting programmes explaining the work taking place through this project run by The Gorilla Organization, and I’ll be sure to keep you informed of how this exciting initiative is developing!

The Solar Sisters making sure everything is all ready to electrify the first facility in Burusi

The Solar Sisters making sure everything is all ready to electrify the first facility in Burusi

Solar power comes to Rusayo village…

The equipment was checked over thoroughly by our resident Solar Sister

Hi, this is Tuver,

So, after months of planning, fundraising and worries, it’s finally happened. Our incredible Solar Sisters have brought electricity to their home villages!

If you’ve been following this remarkable story, then you’ll know that just a few weeks ago, we got a special delivery of high-tech equipment for the Solar Sisters – a special team of ladies who recently spent six months at the Barefoot College in India learning how to become solar power engineers. And you’ll also know that both myself and my colleagues had a stressful time taking delivery of the equipment and getting it released from the customs people here in Goma.

But was all this trouble worth it? You bet it was! The excitement that the arrival of the equipment into the village of Rusayo caused is something that I’ll never forget. Fortunately, as you can see from these pictures, our resident Solar Sister in this village kept a cool head and got to work almost right away, checking the components and getting the panels fitted to the selected homes.

Now, I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating; this will make a massive difference to many people’s lives. For example, now that they can switch on an electric light, children here in Rusayo will be able to study after it’s gone dark, and their parents will be able to work past dusk, too, giving them more opportunity to raise money. And let’s not forget that, since they’ll have a reliable source of power for the first time ever, the villagers here will be much less reliant on the resources of the neighbouring national park, which is great news for the gorillas living there!

So, here are a few more pictures I took on that special day in Rusayo village. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the difference the electricity is making here…

The men of the village help unload the heavy solar power equipment from the trucks

And then the ladies get to work installing the solar panels!

Uganda’s Got Talent: Searching for the next solar sisters!

Crowds gathered as we explained the aims of the Solar Sisters project to the village

Crowds gathered to hear the aims of the Solar Sisters project to the village

Hi, this is Sam,

I’ve just got back from a trip Kagandu, one of the many small villages dotted along the border of the Mgahinga National Park here in Uganda. Here, along with my Gorilla Organization colleague Regina, I was exploring the possibility of getting the community involved in our Solar Sisters project, which is already on track to transform hundreds of lives in four different villages across the border in DR Congo.

Certainly, Kagandu meets the criteria for being considered for the project. The Barefoot College in India, where women are trained in solar engineering skills, requires communities to be without a reliable source of electricity and likely to be without one for the foreseeable future. Well, let me tell you that Kagandu definitely ticks this box! It’s a full hour’s walk from the nearest main road and none of the 380 houses here have ever been fully electrified.

But what Kagandu may lack in infrastructure, it more than makes up for in spirit! The village chairperson welcomed us with open arms and even said she felt her community had been blessed by God to have this opportunity to become electrified! After a brief introduction, we held a productive meeting with several leading members of the community, in which they put forward two women to become Solar Sisters. They also agreed to provide funds to pay the ladies to maintain the village’s solar equipment upon their return from India.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this project extended into Uganda. Having access to electricity is a basic human right, and so to know that this village will soon have what so many of us take for granted is truly a cause for celebration. What’s more, I’m optimistic about how this project will benefit the gorillas living in the Mgahinga National Park. For too long now, people living in villages such as Kagandu have been forced by poverty to enter the protected forests for food and other resources. By allowing them to work and study after it gets dark and even to set up their own small enterprises, solar power will help them pull themselves out of poverty and will mean they will no longer be so reliant on the precious gorilla habitat.

Here are a few more pictures I took from my recent trip. I promise to keep you informed of all the latest developments and, on behalf of everyone in Kagandu, I thank you for your wonderful support!

Here's the initial report I made when I assessed how the village could benefit from solar power

The report I made to assess how the village could benefit from solar power

Members of community were asked to nominate the ladies they thought should go to India

The village nominates the ladies they feel should go to India...

Once the nominations were in, we chose our next Solar Sisters!

...and then, we choose our next Solar Sisters!

Solar equipment delivery creating a real buzz in Goma…

Solar equipment blog pic 4

Moyoni, one of the Solar Sisters, was delighted to receive her new equipment

Hi, this is Tuver,

As Henry explained last week, we’ve just taken delivery of the equipment our Solar Sisters need to bring power to their villages for the first time. As you can imagine, things are more than a little hectic here right now, but everybody is so excited, not least the ladies themselves who are itching to put the skills they learned over in India to good use.

As you can see from these latest pictures, news of our work is spreading across Africa. Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to the national and regional media about what this delivery will mean to some of the poorest villages in this part of Africa. As I explained to them, by having a reliable source of electricity, people will be able to work and study for longer, allowing them to earn more money that they can spend on food and education. It’s also very good news indeed for the gorillas living alongside these villages as they will be left in peace now that people will no longer have to enter the national park for food and fuel.

So, here are a few pictures from the past couple of days. Just look how excited the ladies are. As Henry said, we’ll do our best to keep you up to date with the project, and on behalf of us all and the ladies themselves, I’d like to thank you for your generous support, without which none of this would be possible…

Here's Moyoni again, checking out the equipment she will use to bring power to her home village

Here's Moyoni again, checking out the equipment she will use to bring power to her home village

Here's Henry helping unload the solar power equipment from the lorry

Here's Henry helping unload the solar power equipment from the lorry

News of the delivery travelled fast. Here I am talking to the reporters about the project!

News of the delivery travelled fast. Here I am talking to the reporters about the project!

A New Year’s delivery for the Solar Sisters…

Here I am welcoming the delivery of the equipment for our incredible Solar Sisters

Here I am welcoming the delivery of the equipment for our incredible Solar Sisters

Hi, this is Henry,

I am writing with some very happy news from here in Goma.

As you may recall, at the end of 2010, the Gorilla Organization sent five Congolese grandmothers over to the Barefoot College in India. Here, despite the fact that all but one of them is illiterate and none of them had ever set foot outside of their home villages before, they trained to become solar power engineers.

Well, now they are back home and about to get the equipment they need to bring electricity to their villages for the very first time! As you can see from the picture below, I personally went along to welcome the lorry carrying $100,000 worth of solar power technology to Goma.

Once it’s been released by customs, we’ll get to work distributing it to our ‘Solar Sisters’, and they will then get busy bringing renewable power to their home communities. By having a reliable source of electricity for the first time, people living in these tiny villages will be able to work and study for longer, easing the burden of poverty and meaning they will be steadily less reliant on the forests that they live alongside, thereby leaving giving the endangered gorillas here the space and peace they need to thrive. How’s that for a good start to 2012?

Of course, I’ll be sure to keep you updated as the Solar Sisters get to work, so watch this space!

The new equipment means the Solar Sisters will be able to put their skills to use

The new equipment means the Solar Sisters will be able to put their skills to use

Solar Sisters return from India!

Hi, this is Tuver,

As many of you may know, back in November, we helped send a group of grandmothers from four villages in the eastern DRC to India to take part in a unique initiative to promote sustainable development and support gorilla conservation efforts in the Virungas National Park.

It gives me great pleasure to report that our six Solar Sisters have now returned home after learning the skills they need to become solar power engineers and sustainable energy ambassadors. Under the guidance of Bunker Roy, the manager at the Barefoot College, the ladies learned how to handle electronics components, make circuits and lanterns and to make, install and maintain solar units.

By putting their new skills into action, the ladies will be able to help lift their communities out of poverty and so ease the pressure on the gorillas’ forest home. Light will enable people to work or study after dark, while solar power will also bring further technological opportunities to the villages on the edge of the Virunga National Park.

As well as being greeted by their families and communities, the intrepid ladies have also been received by the governor of North Kivu province Julien Paluku Kahongya, and by the provincial minister of the environment, Chantal Rugenera. Given that they also had the chance to meet the Dali Lama while they were over in India, it seems the Solar Sisters are turning into local celebrities! Not bad for a group of grandmothers who had never left their villages before their life-changing trip to India!

Here are some photos of the ladies in India and being welcomed back to the DRC…..

The ladies learning all about electronic components

The ladies learning all about electronic components

Taking a break from college to visit the Taj Mahal

Taking a break from college to visit the Taj Mahal

The Solar Sisters greeting the Dali Lama when he visited the Barefoot College

The Solar Sisters greeting the Dali Lama when he visited the Barefoot College

The ladies being welcomed back to the DRC by the Governor of North Kivu province

The ladies being welcomed back to the DRC by the Governor of North Kivu province

I’ll be sure to keep you informed of the progress the ladies make as they put their new skills to work in their home villages!