Greetings from Health for Haiti. It feels utterly impossible to convey in a few sentences the devastating humanitarian crisis that our friends in Haiti are currently experiencing. There are blocked roads and dire shortages of fuel. It is very difficult to find safe drinking water. There is catastrophic hunger and violence in the streets. Many people have been displaced from their homes. Over four million children are not receiving an education because it is not safe for schools to open. And on top of all of that, there has been a reemergence of cholera. While it is not possible to offer a Health for Haiti class this year, it is also not an option to abandon our partners when they need us more than ever. We continue to stand with them and for them during these dark days. Therefore, Health for Haiti invites you to join us for “Pancakes for Solar”, our first in-person fundraiser since 2019.
The purpose of this fundraiser is to support our ambitious project to implement solar energy solutions for the community’s water filtration system, our brand new solar school kitchen, and the school classrooms. Solar panels will harness the abundant sunshine in Haiti and remove reliance on gas generators for power. Converting to solar power will have a major positive impact on the lives of our friends in Grande Saline. Please show your support for our neighbors in Grande Saline and join us in this effort by attending our breakfast on November 13.
Solar for Clean Water: In March 2015, Health for Haiti and engineers from the Pall Corporation in Cortland, NY installed a water filtration system in Grande Saline, Haiti. The system pumps water from the Artibonite River and uses microfiltration to clean the water. It provides about 22 gallons of safe drinking water each minute. Members of the community operate the system, which is the only source of clean drinking water for hundreds of people. Before the system was installed many people in the community grew very sick and sometimes died from drinking the unsafe river water.
The system currently relies on gas generators for power. This is expensive, unreliable, and in the face of the current gas shortage in Haiti, impossible. Unfortunately, the community is no longer able to obtain fuel and they cannot run the system. This means that for the first time in over seven years, the families in Grande Saline do not have access to safe drinking water. To make matters worse, Dr. Gary let us know that there are confirmed cases of cholera in the area and lives have been lost. The crisis intensifies each day.
With the expertise of Dr. Gay Canough, CEO and founder of ETM Solar Works, we are working towards helping the community to convert the water system from gas to solar power. Using plans developed by Dr. Canough, the community built a pavilion that will support the solar panels and house the associated inverters and batteries. We are now ready to purchase the hardware and have it installed. This initiative will remove the community’s reliance on gas for their water and allow the system to run again and for longer periods each day.
Solar for the School Kitchen: For several years, Health for Haiti has collaborated with the school in Grande Saline, Haiti to maintain a large community garden. The community grows rice, beans, corn, and many other vegetables year round. All of the produce from the garden provides lunch for the two hundred children who attend the local school and their teachers. Currently, the lunch is cooked over charcoal fires in a makeshift structure that is built from sheet metal and tarps. This is not a safe environment for the school cooks and it is not an efficient way to cook the food.
At the request of the community, we have collaborated with the SUNY Broome Engineering Club and ETM Solar Works to design a new solar school kitchen. The kitchen will have a large area for secure storage of cooking supplies, such as pots and pans and plates, as well as all of the produce from the garden. There will be a separate area for food preparation. The building is the first “modern” construction in Grande Saline, as it is being built with plumbing and wiring. Although the pipes and wires are not attached to anything yet, we are optimistic that they will be in the future. Construction of the kitchen is nearly complete, with plenty of room for solar panels on the roof.
Faculty and students from the Engineering Department are performing experiments to determine the power needed to cook the school lunch meals with solar induction hot plates. This would be a much safer and more efficient way to prepare meals. We are grateful to the engineers and engineering students who are sharing their time and talents to help with this clean energy project in rural Haiti. SUNY Broome graduate, Zac DiRosa, said, “I decided to get on board with the solar school kitchen project because I loved the idea of giving the cooks a healthier work environment. The project was a great opportunity for me and fellow students to use what we have learned and try to make a difference.”
Solar for Education: Zac is not the only student who has come forward to help. Even though we do not have a Health for Haiti class this year, many current SUNY Broome students have enthusiastically volunteered to spread the word, sell tickets, and, in the case of the Dental Hygiene club, serve at the breakfast. For many of these students, their college experience has been anything but typical because of the pandemic. After a lot of time being separate, they are ready to come together and engage in some hands-on activities.
Making a positive difference in the world has also been a motivation for students from the Business Club. Students are donating time and energy by signing on as “Solar Pancake Ambassadors”. Club President Maddie Akulis says, “We have a great club and enjoy doing team building activities together, but we also want to find ways to make what we do as a club even more meaningful. We want to work together for good, and with Health for Haiti we can actually see our efforts in action.” Business Club Secretary, Audrey Horton said, “When we look at the world today, we see a lot of separateness, negativity, and darkness. We want to be a positive force for good and bring some light to people who are in need.”
Audrey’s intention to bring some light to dark places is not just a metaphor when it comes to the “Pancakes for Solar” project. In 2015 and 2016 Health for Haiti completed solar power installations in Grande Saline. The solar panels were installed on the church and a nearby classroom and the power provided the community with lights so they could hold school and church functions in the evening and enabled the school to offer very popular computer and sewing classes for both children and adults. The equipment is in excellent working order, but the batteries from that installation are now at end of life and must be replaced. As part of the “Pancakes for Solar” project we will replace the batteries and enable the community to have light and power once again for community events and critical education initiatives. Says Deacon Oxira from Grande Saline, “We are so hopeful that we will once again have lights and be able to hold activities as a community in the evening. We are excited for this project to become a reality.”
Our “Pancakes for Solar” breakfast will support the purchase and installation of the solar equipment needed to power the water filtration system, the new solar school kitchen, and the classrooms. When it is possible to do so, we plan to hire a Haitian solar company to complete the work. This means that by completing this project we will also be supporting Haiti’s fragile economy. Please consider being a part of this project by attending our “Pancakes for Solar” breakfast on Sunday, November 13th from 8am to 10am at the Applebee’s on Front Street in Binghamton. We hope to have a great turnout to show our friends in Haiti that we stand with them in their time of need. To purchase tickets please visit: https://www3.sunybroome.edu/health4haiti/pancakes/
Thank you and we hope to see you on November 13th!