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Archive for November, 2009

Sam Shrank is a 3-month MAP Fellow from Stanford University who has been serving with Green Empowerment and the Border Green Energy Team in Thailand since September 2009.

Monday

Monday was a day of driving. We drove from Mae Sot to the last village accessible by car on the way to our final destination, Lay Tong Ku. We were headed there, the three technicians, another volunteer, and myself, to install a solar system in a medical clinic that services both the village of 1,200 and many people who come from Burma specifically to avail themselves of the clinic’s services. The system will power seven lights and a vaccine refrigerator. The refrigerator especially will allow the clinic to expand its services, as it currently has no way to keep vaccines or medications cold.

The drive took about six hours, including a long lunch break at a roadside restaurant near Umpiam refugee camp. I spent the drive dozing, trying to stop my seat cushion from sliding off the seat every time we went down a hill, and reading Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. I liked the book mostly as a travel story, though it was interesting to see the beginnings of his ideology forming (at exactly my age) and learn more about his life from the introduction.

Playing Caneball

We stayed at the (very nice) house of our ‘guide’. I watched the technicians play caneball—think volleyball with no hands, except the people here are still able to spike! They wanted me to play but it would have just been embarrassing. I spent the evening playing the Thai version of gin rummy with two of the technicians. Once we cleared up some rules misunderstandings we had a good time. Going on these trips is when I interact with the technicians the most, and that is definitely a highlight. They are—and this is characteristic really of most people in Mae Sot and elsewhere here—very happy and friendly. Even listening to their conversation without understanding anything you notice how much they laugh and how animated they are. And even with their broken English they are always joking around with me about anything and everything.

Tuesday

Hiking to Lay Tong Ku

Hiking to Lay Tong Ku

Tuesday was a day of walking. It took probably 4 hours to get to LTK from the end of the auto road. We went up and down two mountains, but it was the heat that really made the hike hard. There were nice views at times, but most of the time our view was obstructed even at the top of the mountain by the dense vegetation. When there were gaps, though I could see forested mountains in what must have been Burma, and occasionally the outlines of villages. We met a group of maybe 30 Karen men going in the opposite direction. They stopped to talk with us, and I repeatedly heard them say one of the two only Karen words I know: “Tahb-luh” or “thank you.” It turns out they were our porters, men from LTK who were carrying our equipment, especially the behemoth vaccine refrigerator. Though, as we soon found out, they decided the refrigerator was such a behemoth that they could not carry it on the trail, so it would have to be brought to LTK by tractor over a much longer route.

Meeting the Karen Porters

Anyway, the particularly interesting thing about these Karen is that they are not Christian or Buddhist as most are, but have a belief system that is some combination of spiritualism and animism. This leads to many differences. They do not drink alcohol, or eat domesticated animals. Second, the men mostly have very long hair that they tie in a bun at the front of their head similar to a samurai’s topknot. In most ways they are like all other Karen though—incredibly friendly, agile and fearless when it comes to manual labor, fanatical about spicy food and betel nut, and generous with their food and time.

Wednesday

Wednesday was a day of work. The refrigerator still had not arrived but we installed the rest of the system so that if the refrigerator arrives tomorrow we will still be on track to leave Friday first thing in the morning. The five 130W solar panels are also powering six fluorescent lights and one LED light for the clinic, kitchen, outhouse, and doctor’s house. Except for a short time carrying wood in the morning, I spent the first part of my workday helping assemble wire ties (very unskilled labor) and following M  (the third technician) around passing him tools as he climbed up to the rafters to hang lights.

Nailing in the Wire Ties

Soon though I was doing my own tasks. When you think of installing solar-powered lighting you probably think of setting up the panels, or maybe hanging up lights. But actually the vast majority of the work required is laying and connecting wires and setting up switches. Wire ties have to be nailed into the wooden columns and rafters every three inches or so, differing in size depending on how many wires need to be held in place. There are wires that go from each switch to each light, but also a main line that comes from the batteries/panels, and in some locations that main line must be ties in to lines going to the outer buildings (nurse’s house, outhouse, kitchen). Therefore in some places four wires needed to be run in parallel and tied down. The particularly tedious work is nailing in the ties. I spent most of the time nailing in the 1-wire ties, which have a nail the size of the top of a grain of rice and themselves are less than half the length of my pinky finger. To nail them in you fold them over the nail to hold the nail in place until it is firmly in the wood, but still holding the tie in place with my fat fingers means that there is almost no room for error in where I hit the nail. And because the nails are so small even one hit in the wrong direction will bend the nail severely.

Now I believe I possess many talents but fine motor skills are not chief among them. This task would have been hard enough for me had I been doing it standing on the ground. But most of the time I was in the rafters, sitting either on a wooden crossbeam an inch thick or on the bamboo doorframe (a little thicker but much creakier) of the nurse’s bedroom. Though it was fun to climb all over the buildings and I never felt like I was putting myself in danger, it meant that I could never give my complete focus to my hammering, and increased my mistakes. I later had to climb back up to tie the ties around the wires, which often meant I had to stand precariously on a thin piece of wood without touching the wire so that I could pull it taut.

The other main job I had was making switches, which again is more complicated than it sounds. In the simplest switch, the wire to the load (lamp) is connected to the main line from the power source. The wires must first be stripped to expose the positive and negative wires, which in turn must again be stripped at their ends to reveal the copper that actually conducts the electricity. The negative wires are then twisted together to allow current to flow freely, while the positive ends are screwed into the switch. In this way, when the switch is closed (in other words, the light is turned on) a complete circuit exists, and the light will receive power while when the switch is open there is no circuit.

After we finished work for the day we took a trip to the local waterfall, which must have been 75 feet high or so, full of deep pools, almost vertical drops over craggy rock, and funnels with violently rushing water. I was just looking forward to swimming in the pool at the bottom and taking some pictures until the technicians started literally running up the falls. They ran up the steep parts, climbed up the vertical stretches, and waded through the fastest flows. They could even run and jump down the falls without a second thought. I was persuaded to try to climb the falls myself and so began my very slow ascent. I never felt at all out of control, but that is only because I tested every foothold and handhold obsessively. It was a pretty big thrill when I got to the top, and we all spent maybe 30 minutes fooling around in the water and relaxing. After all, we had definitely earned it.

At the Local Waterfall

Dinner was ready soon after we got back from the waterfall and finished showering. I think now is a good time to describe what it is like to eat a Karen meal. Each person is served a plate of rice and each dish is placed in the center and eaten family style. Before eating you use your spoon (or hands when especially traditional or hungry) to break up your rice, which is often clumpy or stuck together. You then eat a bite of plain rice before you combine with anything else, I assume as a check on the rice’s quality. Then you are free to eat from the shared bowls. It is customary to take only a small amount at once, enough for maybe two or three bites. Fish dishes are very common, as are chicken and pork (except in this village). They do have decent selection of green vegetables that they eat, mostly leafy greens that are put in soups. If there is a dish that looks like it might be spicy is almost definitely is—of the 3 or 4 dishes served at a meal there are never more than 2 I can handle and 1 often is only vegetables. I have acquired a taste for many new vegetables in Thailand, including cucumbers, kale, and many leafy greens that many not even have English names. Because all of the meat here is heavy on bone and gristle it is acceptable to pick up the pieces, which are always small, with your hands, or to put them in your mouth and play with it to remove the meat. The bones and waste are put in a pile next to your bowl to be cleared at the end of the meal. I am always completely full after a meal, even if with mostly rice on occasion.

Enjoying a Karen Dinner

Thursday

Training

Refrigerator Installation

Thursday was a day of training. For most of the day that meant that I sat and watched as the technicians trained the nurses and villagers in Karen, following along by the diagrams drawn on the blackboard. I had been informed a couple days ago that I would be doing the refrigerator training and Thursday evening the time finally came. The refrigerator arrived at dusk by way of some long tractor journey in Burma, and we quickly installed it, though we had to break down a wall of the clinic because the refrigerator didn’t fit through the door. Doing this was much easier than it would have been in the US—we just took out a few nails and the vertical wood planks came out, and then we sawed off a piece of the horizontal support and voila, we had a hole big enough for a refrigerator. Anyway, over the past couple days I had been reading the manual and not quite understanding some of the instructions. I was consequently extremely nervous about this training, considering that not only was I going to have to explain everything, but I would have to do so with a translator that spoke only relatively simple English (for example did not know the words dial, mold, or metal). As soon as I got a look at the refrigerator and the electronic controls on the top, though, everything clicked into place. The diagrams that were unclear suddenly made perfect sense and I felt a lot better going into the training. Though I had some translation problems, as far as I can tell it went off without a hitch. If we get a call in a week saying that they tried to fix a broken thermostat with a sledgehammer I’ll need to revisit my confidence, but for now I am happy with how things went.

Group Photo

The other interesting part of the day was our visit to a local shrine during the afternoon. As I mentioned before most of the people in this area are adherents of a spirit religion of which I do not know specifics. At this shrine they worship a pair of enormous elephant tusks, intricately carved with animals and other designs. I’d never seen tusks even close to as big as the ones in this shrine. There was also a Buddha in the shrine, underneath the tusks. I asked our guide if they worshipped the Buddha as well. He said no, that it was only there so that Buddhists who come to visit “feel more comfortable.” Bizarre, no?

Shrine

Friday

Friday was a day of traveling home. We woke up at 5 am to get an early enough start to get home by the evening and to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day. We left by about 630—part of the delay was due to our discovery that one of the two porters who were coming with us to carry our equipment was a strict adherent to the spirit religion of the area and therefore refused to carry—or even touch—the backpacks holding the gear. Maybe he thought that there were some animal products in it (leather?) and so it was related to not being allowed to eat meat? He brought a bamboo basket, however, and they loaded as much of the gear as they could into it. I volunteered to carry the backpack along with some of the lighter gear. Only after a couple minutes did I discover that one of the arm straps was broken, and held in place by being tied to the chest strap. This meant the bag was hopelessly lopsided and I couldn’t tighten the arms. Still the bag wasn’t too heavy and having a waist strap was nice, so it wasn’t much of an issue.

Probably because we left so early, the hike out wasn’t nearly as tiring as the hike in, and I think was quicker as well. When we got back to the truck (after an incredible meal at the house where we spent the first night) I volunteered to sit in the truck bed because it would have been really crowded in the back seat with three people and I like feeling the wind and seeing the view. I really enjoyed the ride, though it was incredibly long (almost 7 hours) considering I had nothing to do but look at the view. The mountain scenery was incredible, especially as the sun was setting, and I got great views of villages and refugee camps. For the first couple hours the roads were extremely bad, and sometimes we hit potholes that made me feel like I’d punctured a lung, but once we hit the highway it was smooth sailing.

View of the Mountain Landscape

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Three years in the making, the new cinéma-vérité feature from acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet, pitting 30,000 indigenous rainforest dwellers against the U.S. oil giant Chevron.

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CRUDE is playing at Cinema 21 in Portland from Nov. 13th – 19th.

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The Q´ero Nation, a community of people who live in the remote Andes of Peru, are currently facing large problems as they are lacking basic services like like clean drinking water, electricity, education, sanitary facilities and access to health care. Infant mortality between the ages of 0 and 5 is high at 47 percent and easily treatable respitory illnesses can quickly become fatal during the winter months when the area experiences below-freezing temperatures.

Green Empowerment has partnered with The Q’ero Development Assistance on a project to bring education and electrity to the Q’ero Nation. To learn more about the project and the community that it will serve please visit the Q’ero Development Assistance.

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The 2009 Energy Globe Awards, which recognizes renewable energy projects worldwide, were held this past spring in Prague.  Green Empowerment’s Solar Mobile Clinic project in Burma was selected as the winner in the “Fire” category.  The project, implemented by Thai partner Border Green Energy Team (BGET), was also voted overall Grand Prize Winner by the audience at a televised gala during a meeting of the European Union environment ministers in Prague.

Green Empowerment was also singled out as one of the top three organizations in the “Water” category for its solar water pumping and community empowerment projects in Nicaragua, specifically in Bramadero.

The award ceremony has been posted online and can be seen in its entirety at:  ENERGY GLOBE World Award Gala 2009.

 

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The article below was featured in the May/June 2009 edition of Common Place Magazine and highlights some of the work done by Asofenix in Nicaragua. The article was written by Emily Will  and photographed by Melissa Engle.

For her 17 years of married life, Marbellyz Ortíz Espinoza has dreaded one part of each day — rising between 4 and 5 every morning. It’s not just the wind that howls and gusts indoors through the gaps between her home’s sheet-metal roof and adobe walls or leaving the comfort of bed to start another rigorous day as a farmer’s wife in the isolated mountains of central Nicaragua.

Marbellyz Ortíz Espinoza

Marbellyz Ortíz Espinoza

It’s the darkness. Espinoza finds it spooky and has nothing to ward it off but a flickering wick sticking out the opening of a soup-size can of kerosene. The candil, as it’s called, spews as much thick smoke as it does light, and the 35-year-old mother knows its fumes are not healthy. The “lamp” is also hazardous, quick to erupt in flames when kerosene leaks around the wick. So, when a switch was flipped and three solar-powered compact fluorescent bulbs illuminated the home as dusk settled one January evening, smiles brightened the faces of Espinoza, her husband Pánfilo Enrique Guzmán and their sons, ages 15 and 5. The house, filled with the family, MCC workers and partners and several young community technicians trained to install the solar systems, reverberated with expressions of joy, awe and congratulations. The gift of solar power is coming to rural Nicaraguan villages, such as Espinoza’s community of Corozo, with the help of a young MCC partner organization called Asociación Fenix, Asofenix for short. MCC workers Sarah and Seth Hays, of Lakewood, Colo., work alongside communities in solar projects and on other renewable energy projects, such as biodigestors, microhydroturbines and wind turbines.

Pánfilo Enrique Guzmán, right, works on wiring a flourescent fixture that will provide reliable light to his home

Pánfilo Enrique Guzmán, right, works on wiring a flourescent fixture that will provide reliable light to his home

Entire communities, notes Seth Hays, are entering an age of electricity without relying on the fossil fuels that most Canadian and U.S. residents take for granted. “Environmentally friendly energy sources will allow rural Nicaraguans to develop and improve their livelihood for many years to come in a manner that will not be threatened by international markets and trends,” Hays says. “Nicaragua has great potential for supplying a large percent of its energy needs through renewable energy.” Asofenix founder and director Jaime Muñoz, reared in an impoverished family in rural Nicaragua, views the development of renewable energy sources as an initial move to help isolated communities deal with the challenges of surviving on near-barren land. A large project such as installing solar panels is often Asofenix’s first step. “We are committed to working alongside a community for 10 years. The large projects are what bring us into the community, but that is just the start of our work,” Hays says, describing how Asofenix forms committees to encourage residents to work together to make their communities stronger. “Our dream is that they, in the future, will find the problems in the community and work on ways to solve them for themselves,” Hays says. The challenges are great. Like many other Central American and Caribbean countries, Nicaragua’s forests and mineral resources have been nearly picked clean. Its land and water have been depleted and polluted to produce exports such as cotton, coffee and beef. Foreign enterprises and the country’s elite continue to profit while many residents struggle to simply get by. Rural areas often lack infrastructure and basic services. The families in the communities in which Asofenix works combine various survival tactics.

During the rainy season, those with access to land cultivate basic food crops, such as corn and beans.

Marvin Velasquez, left, and Milyer Enrique Guzmán fit together the electronic parts while Kenneth Jose Ortíz Guzmán, left, and Jeninsa Dayana watch

Marvin Velasquez, left, and Milyer Enrique Guzmán fit together the electronic parts while Kenneth Jose Ortíz Guzmán, left, and Jeninsa Dayana watch

Then some or all family members may migrate to Costa Rica to pick coffee during the three-month harvest. Others move to Managua for either short- or long-term employment in maquilas — foreign-owned assembly plants. Nicaragua now ranks as the Western Hemisphere’s second poorest nation. And, as in Haiti, the hemisphere’s most impoverished, deforestation is creating conditions in which erosion, nutrient runoff and the drying of water sources combine into a downward spiral of failing crops, barren land and worsening poverty. Asofenix director Muñoz, though, chooses to hone in on what rural Nicaragua does have — plentiful sunshine that can be tapped for renewable energy and the people themselves, driven by a fierce desire to improve their lives and to do whatever it takes to get their children out of poverty. Asofenix focuses on solar power for three major uses — to pump water to families’ homes, to pump water for drip irrigation to small plots of land and to provide limited electricity to homes. The capacity to light a few fluorescent bulbs can give families their first opportunity to bring activities, such as sewing and homework, into the evening hours, as well as the opportunity to run items such as a radio or television. José Felix Salazar, 56, who lives in the community of Bramadero, about an hour’s walk from Corozo, shares his delight that solar-powered drip irrigation is allowing him, for the first time, to grow a crop during dry months when community of Candelaria, one of Asofenix’s first. Impressed, Salazar went to see Muñoz about the possibility of a similar project in Bramadero. He was soon helping to organize his community’s 45 families to install solar panels to pump water from a well to faucets at individual homes, some as much as a kilometer away. Each family agreed to contribute 10 days of labor, to plant trees to protect the water source and to improve sanitation by constructing home latrines. That was in 2007. Since then, the piped water has eased families’ bare-boned budgets and never-ending toil. “Before, we went to fetch water every morning after breakfast, and we had to carry it home on our heads,” says Salazar’s wife, Flor de María Gonzales. She and her 12-year-old daughter, Anielka, hauled the water over a rocky road a 15-minute walk away. Occasionally when they weren’t able to fetch water, they had to buy it. Now they merely step out their back door and open a tap — a service that is costing them a mere 10 Nicaraguan cents per pail, 60 times less than they paid to buy a pail of water before. They and the community’s other 44 families deposit their water payments into a common fund for the system’s upkeep and maintenance. In this region, Seth Hays says, about 30 percent of heads of household migrate to Costa Rica during its his land would normally sit idle.

José Felix Salazar

José Felix Salazar

His small plot — about 0.8 of an acre of emerging tomato and watermelon plants — offers rows of green among the brown fields that mark this land in dry season. And it’s drawing attention. “Many have come to see it, and they all say the plot is beautiful,” he says. Salazar was instrumental in bringing solar power to this area. A few years ago, a man who came to buy a pig from him mentioned a solar water project going up in the coffee harvest, and in some communities, almost 80 percent of the men go. About 5 percent of the area’s residents live and work there throughout the year. Solar power and drip irrigation may provide an alternative. “Our hope is that it will give people a source of income so that they don’t have to migrate to Costa Rica,” Hays says. Salazar’s dream is that solar-powered pumps will eventually allow him to irrigate enough of his land to bring home some family members. Salazar says his eldest son Fredy, 27, moved to Costa Rica to work in construction, work that is increasingly harder to find and paying less. Daughter Mary Luz, 24, wouldn’t mind giving up her job in a Managua maquila, which requires working as quickly as possible, doing the same task, such as sewing a collar on a shirt, over and over again for 10 or more hours a day.

His oldest daughter and her husband, who live nearby, have already expressed interest in farming with Salazar. And he hopes to provide more opportunity for his 18-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter who still live at home. “This project is the best one to have come here, better than the road, electricity and the school,” Salazar says. Muñoz is glad people are dreaming of brighter futures but, with 26 years of grassroots experience in this region, he’s also aware of the perils in imported and high-tech solutions to the problems of impoverished rural areas. He’s designing Asofenix projects to be as grounded in the community as possible. In Corozo, for example, Asofenix has trained six people, including two teenage women, to install and maintain solar-powered generating systems. Guzmán, Espinoza’s husband, is part of the team, and the technicians’ first “real-life” test of their skills was wiring Guzmán and Espinoza’s home.

Salazar fits the lid back on a water tank. A solar-powered pump provides water for drip irrigation to his fields

Salazar fits the lid back on a water tank. A solar-powered pump provides water for drip irrigation to his fields

The young workers glowed with satisfaction when the bulbs brightened the darkness that January evening. Guzmán, who was voted president of the project committee, says, “We’ve never before had a successful project here. We are a very, very poor community and, till now, we’ve been a very, very ignored community without hope. Now, people are happier.” Their house was the eighth of 24 local homes to be connected to a solar panel. Guzmán remained in Corozo this year, rather than migrating to Costa Rica, to give local leadership to the effort. But neither he nor Espinoza are complaining about forgoing the coffee harvest earnings.

Community members in Bálsamo, Nicaragua, take a break from installing a solar-powered drip irrigation system

A community member in Bálsamo, Nicaragua, watches the installation of a solar-powered drip irrigation system

They are being repaid by witnessing not only the power of the sun that now lights their home, but also by the personal and community power sparked in working together with neighbors. And while Espinoza may still have to rise with the roosters, she’s looking forward to doing it without fear of the dark — or a smoky, potentially explosive candil.

 

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The article below was featured in the May/June 2009 edition of Common Place Magazine and profiles Jaime Muñoz, the founder of Asofenix. The article was written by Emily Will  and photographed by Melissa Engle.

Jaime Muñoz

Jaime Muñoz

From the first time I had heard about solar energy as a child, it intrigued me. When I was in school, I wanted a career that was different, out of the ordinary. Now, at 41 years old, I’m able to spend my days seeing families in rural villages like the one where I grew up meet some of their most basic needs through solar power. As the director of Asofenix, I see firsthand how solar energy can be made available to even the poorest of families and families that live in mountainous areas very far from cities. MCC helps support our efforts to install solar power systems in isolated communities that never had access to electricity before. I love the hands-on work of developing and installing these systems. We also work in other areas of renewable energy such as microhydroturbines (that use the force of water to create energy), biodigesters (that produce cooking fuel from cow manure) and wind turbines (that use the force of wind to make energy).

Some communities call me ingeniero, the engineer. I’m always quick to explain that I’m not an engineer — in fact, my family didn’t have the money for me to continue my education beyond secondary school. My best “university” has been to work with people with a lot of experience in the field of renewable energy. It’s true that my educational level is low, but I’ve gained a lot of knowledge through people, through reading and through hands-on experimentation.

I was the oldest of six children. We lived in Esquipulas, a community of about 15,000 in the rural province of Matagalpa, in central Nicaragua. When I was 14, the Sandinistas imprisoned my father in Managua, the capital, and he remained there for four years. During these years, I traveled to Managua to try to get my father released. I knew nothing of the city and very little of the world, and I was on my own in a highly charged political environment. Finally, a political group helped me get him out. By then, I had gotten my first taste of community work through a literacy campaign when I was 15. I’ve been at it throughout the 26 years since, the one continual thread in the many ups and downs of my life.

I began teaching when I was still a student in secondary school, working with vocational classes in metal and woodworking. It may seem incredible that they would hire someone so young and inexperienced, but I was very motivated, and the directors noticed that I was gifted in mechanical, hands-on work. I spent three months in the shops learning how to handle the machines and equipment and reading the manuals and instructions. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to figure out how to do things, even if I’ve only read about doing them. When I was drafted into military service in 1984, my map-making ability kept me out of combat, for which I was grateful. Still, I was glad when I finished the year and a half of service and dismayed when the Sandinista government, just a few months after my release, ordered me to work with them in a civilian position or join the Army Reserves. So at 22 years old, I found myself the director of the Sandinista Youth in the town of San José de los Remates.

Over the next decade or so, I worked with a range of organizations, from international reforestation brigades to a first-time government program to provide national identification cards. What I liked in all my positions was working with people and forming relationships. In 1997, I lost my job due to federal budget cuts. I went to Managua and opened a pulpería, a little grocery shop. It was a huge change. I had never had my own business. But now I’m very appreciative that I was able to learn another way of living and working. I earned enough to support myself and to do some studies, so I looked into studying solar energy.

In the 1970s my father had taken an auto mechanics correspondence course from Hemphill Schools, which is based in California but offers courses taken by students throughout Central America. When I talked to the school’s representative in Managua, I was surprised and delighted to learn they had a course in photovoltaics, or solar-cell technology. I also attended solar power trainings and seminars offered by the engineering university in Managua, including a course taught by Dr. Richard Komp, a U.S. solar tech expert. I built a solar oven during that course and afterward I experimented with building other solar cookers, as well as water heaters, solar dryers and other equipment.

The university saw my interest and invited me to join Grupo Fenix, a new group working on solar power. I volunteered for three years with Grupo Fenix, even helping Dr. Komp teach workshops and courses. I came to realize that my passion lies not in research as much as in hands on work with solar projects in communities like the one in which I had grown up. Through Grupo Fenix, I got to know a foreign visitor, who offered to financially support such community-based work. In 2001, I began Asofenix.

It started small, but in 2007, I received a major 10-year grant from a Dutch humanitarian organization. Today, I live in a house in Managua, the capital, and my office is there, but I am devoted to being out in the rural communities where Asofenix is working. I travel outside the city several days each week to help install renewable energy systems, meet with communities and train young technicians. Seeing rural families meet some of their most basic needs through renewable sources of energy is rewarding. And I am happiest traveling out to villages, spending time with people, sleeping in a hammock at their homes. This work, which draws on my technical know-how and also allows me to relate to people, deeply fulfills me.

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