Cambodia, clean energy, Congo, Detroit, Ecuador, education, energy poverty, Haiti, helping others, inner city schools, Oakland, orphanages, Peru, Philippines, Richmond, self worth, sense of purpose, Sierra Leone, solar suitcases, solar technology, STEM, Tanzania, transformed, Uganda, youth
Hal Aronson, who co-founded We Care Solar with his wife, Laura Stachel, calls himself a solar evangelist. He loves the technology that turns light directly into electricity with no pollution. He says it’s an elegant, optimistic technology. It sparks the imagination.
After We Care Solar, Hal had another idea on how to use the solar suitcases he had designed. The schools and orphanages in the developing countries were also in need of a consistent source of electricity. Students could not study at night; some would go to gas stations to use their light to prepare for exams. Kerosene lamps posed dangerous risks, particularly at orphanages. Wild animals roamed free in many remote areas, adding the need for light as safety. At a School for the Deaf in Kenya where sign language is their mode of communication, all communication would stop at sunset. The need was great.
As a Professor of Solar Energy Technology at San Francisco State University, Hal was dedicated to teaching and working with young people. With the growing demand for solar suitcases at We Care Solar in the maternal healthcare field, they had begun to build its suitcases in factories. Hal wanted to reignite his desire to teach solar technology to students.
We Share Solar was an opportunity to bring teachers and students back into the work… and to help other students. Hal says, it was an opportunity to give them hands on experience and “to give them a sense of the future they can create.” Hal partnered with local schools and teachers in the process. The teachers told him that their students were excited about making a difference in people’s lives.
We Share Solar fits in with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) initiative to promote and engage students in these disciplines. Teachers could use the systems to improve their educational offerings in subjects like geography, sociology, technology and science. Hal said it works particularly well with girls, since girls are empathetic by nature and one of the ways to turn girls on to science is to associate technology with helping people.
Hal is clearly excited to engage young people in technology and empower youth to have agency in the world. He is empowered to save lives and he understands that students feel the same way. The most powerful lesson Hal learned was that in the inner city neighborhoods like Richmond, Detroit and Oakland — where kids experienced violence, drugs and gangs — these students were the most transformed when engaged in this work. The students gained a sense of purpose and self worth by helping others less fortunate than them.
The students building the solar suitcases also write letters to the students who are receiving the solar suitcases, connecting them. Hal’s current project is to engage college students at Cal State to mentor the middle and high school students. Students helping students helping students.
We Share Solar is in approximately 100 schools throughout the US and they distribute these suitcases to 10 countries: Philippines, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Haiti, Ecuador and Peru.
To learn more and support We Share Solar, go to their web site, We Share Solar.