About a year ago, The Lawrenceville Island School Club set out to fundraise enough money to purchase a solar suitcase from We Care Solar. We Care Solar is a nonprofit organization that assembles and distributes suitcase-sized portable solar panels to be used as a source of electricity in schools, hospitals, libraries, and other buildings throughout areas of need in Africa. The cost to construct one solar suitcase is $1,000. When you send in the $1,000, We Care Solar mails you the parts included in a kit, you assemble the suitcase, and then send it directly the area of need, as determined by We Care Solar, to be installed. (To learn more, check out this blog post)
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The Island School posed a challenge to alumni that if they raised $500 on their own, IS would match the remaining $500 to reach the $1,000 for a suitcase. Spring 2013 alumnus Danny Goldman helped The Lawrenceville Island School Club to raise the $500 through selling milkshakes (in compostable cups, of course) during lunch, as well as some handmade bracelets from Columbia that say “Lawrenceville”. Another alumna highly involved in the We Care Solar project at Lawrenceville was Anna Marsh (S’13).

The Lawrenceville School Island School Club

Danny had the opportunity to go to Kibera, Nairobi to help install the solar suitcase that was assembled by the Island School alumni at Lawrenceville. He shares his amazing experience:

“We left New York on July 27th with six 70 pound bags jammed with Solar Suitcases and tools for their installation.The US State Department had issued warnings about travel to Kenya and in the days immediately prior to our departure the Peace Corp pulled out of Kenya due to terrorism in rural areas and the coastline. Our family debated whether we should go at all, but our commitment for Solar Suitcase placements had been made and people were waiting for the lights. We also knew that we had a great team of partners on the ground that we didn’t want to let down.

Our plan was to install in 3 locations: a community library and 2 schools in the Kibera slum. The Kibera slum is the largest urban slum in Africa with over 1 million residents who lack access to basic services including running water and electricity. An important piece of the project was to work with a local team on the ground, educating them about the We Share Solar Suitcase. Together, we would install the systems and train the end users on operation and maintenance.

As I entered Kibera, I noticed right away that it was basically built on trash with an open sewage system….garbage was everywhere.  As I walked along I wondered how over one million people lived without basic sanitation, water and power.

Kiberia Slum

We began by installing the Island School sponsored Solar Suitcase in the Egesa Childrens’ Center, which serves 250 students in 3 very small, dark classrooms that didn’t have electricity. Light from this suitcase will allow students to study later in the day and the community to gather at night for meetings and events.  Upon seeing the 5 bright LED bulbs light up his school, Peter, the Principal of the school, said that light from the solar suitcase would open up opportunities for further education at the school.

Egesa Students Thanking IS

Our largest installation was at the Shining Hope for Communities Library.  We were informed that over 600 people come to this library every month, wanting to read.  Without dependable electricity their opportunities are limited.  We installed a larger Solar Suitcase unit here, powering 8 LED lights.  When the switch was flipped on, the local people actually gasped….and immediately began reading.

SHOFCO Community Members reading by new light

 At one of the schools I had the opportunity to talk to the students (all girls) about solar and the support of Lawrenceville and The Island School.  They listened carefully and shared a bit about their lives and their love for their school.  In the end, the girls gave me a big group hug and I hugged them right back.”

SHOFCO Danny teaching about Solar and the project