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Archive for December, 2009

The entry below was written by Philip Beard who traveled to Nicaragua in March 2009 with his good friend Joseph Marino to complete their second major photovoltaic installation there.  The grateful recipient was a wonderful home for abused kids called “Hogar amiguitos” in the central-northern town of Jinotega. The work was kindly facilitated with funding from Green Empowerment.  This is the story of that project.

First some background.  Joseph’s the founder and till recently the CEO of DC Power Systems in Healdsburg, California, a major distributor of renewable energy equipment and know-how.  I’m a retired German professor with a two-decade history of collaboration with progressive projects in Nicaragua.  Joseph and I have been friends since the 1970’s.  In 2006 we completed the first of our joint projects in Nicaragua, where he’d asked me for guidance in identifying worthy recipients of donated photovoltaic systems.  That first one was for a women’s clinic in Mulukukú, where it still reigns as the largest single photovoltaic system operating in Nicaragua.

Shortly after completing the Mulukukú installation,  Joseph learned of another worthy candidate: Hogar amiguitos, a home for abused children in Jinotega.  On our next trip (May-June 2008) we visited the site and got to know Joy Pulsifer, the 32-year-old Mississippian who runs the center.  She has no salary, but says she’d rather be nowhere else in the world, doing no other work.  Her relationship with her young charges (about 20 boys and girls aged 6 through 18) is warm, firm, loving.  She and her staff (including volunteers and interns from the US and Germany) are doing very important work, and deserve all the help they can get from sympathetic onlookers like us.

So we spent a couple of days in June ’08 consulting with Joy about electrical needs, measuring potential panel installation sites, taking copious pictures – doing the groundwork for an eventual installation.  Then before coming back home, we met with Green Empowerment’s Gordy Molitor, Suni Solar’s Douglas Gonzales, and some engineers at the Asofenix office in Managua, where a plan was hatched for a thorough on-site inspection which would determine whether the existing roof at Hogar amiguitos was sound enough to support a panel array of the size we were contemplating, or what reinforcing modifications would be necessary to keep the whole thing from falling down or blowing away in a big storm.

Fast forward to the more recent past.  By March of ’09 Joseph had received the structural information needed to determine where the array should be placed and what roof reinforcement would be in order.  He had ordered and shipped all the panels, control devices, racks, wiring, etc. from DC Power to Suni Solar, our primary installation collaborators in Managua.  And had enlisted the support of Paco Jordan, a Mendocino County (California) builder who’d done beaucoup solar installations and as a bonus, spoke good Spanish.  We planned to meet up at the airport in Managua on March 22 (I would have been down there for five days already, visiting friends in other parts of the country), then drive to Jinotega, stopping first in Mulukukú to fine-tune the installation there, and in Matagalpa for a brief visit with good friends.

All would have been groovy except for a couple of unforeseeable factors.

First, the equipment container was held up for impenetrable bureaucratic reasons at the port in Corinto.  The stuff that was supposed to greet us upon our arrival in Jinotega on Mar. 26 didn’t finally arrive until Friday of the next week, Apr. 3 – meaning that the team would have a little over two days to put all the pieces in place before Joseph and Paco had to fly back to California!

And second, a truly bizarre circumstance, whose details would require a whole other essay.   The short version: In Mulukukú I subjected myself to a so-called “acupunture” treatment for my arthritic hips by a Cuban orthopedist on a two-year assignment to the women’s clinic.  It was nothing like what we normally think of as acupuncture – little needles placed at meridian points to stimulate “chi” flow, etc.  Rather, Dr. Mesa injected eight bits of catgut surgical thread around each of my hip joints.  (I wasn’t looking, so only learned when he’d finished what he’d actually done.) The theory of this so-called “semilla de catgut” method is that the body will act to reject this invader by sending huge quantities of blood coursing to the affected area.  The blood-flow then over time allegedly dissolves the calcium buildup of the arthritic joint, leaving it relatively smooth.

What Dr. Mesa didn’t tell me was that my hips, groin, and lower back would respond to this invasion in a different way.  They basically locked up, all the muscles going into spasm.  The next day I could hardly walk, and though he assured me that all would be well in a couple of days, in fact it was more like two months before I got my full pre-catgut range of movement back.

The upshot for our solar installation project was that I was now pretty useless except for shopping forays and other errands where Joseph needed my Spanish.  Meanwhile, Paco was hard at work building walls and doors to house the inverter, batteries, and charge controllers.  I’d hoped to lend him a hand, but my hips now had other ideas, and so I was relegated to translating services for the duration.

I had to return to California already on March 31, and the shipment was still languishing in the customs port of Corinto at that point, so the rest of my report is based on Joseph’s stories and photos after he got back.

Basically the story is that with Paco’s fine preparatory work, and he, Joseph, and the Suni Solar team, plus a couple of guys from a competing installation firm (Tecnosol) whom Joseph had invited along for the ride – got the sucker up and running in an incredible two days!  I was very sorry not to be able to witness their anthill of activity, but Joseph’s photos gave me, and will give readers, a good taste of what those hectic two days must have been like.  Here are a few.

So there we have it.  Joseph joins me in thanking Green Empowerment immensely for their generous assistance in planning and funding this fine project.  And we both look forward avidly to the next one.

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Not in Peru.

In the slums of US cities, livelihoods are not based so much on natural resources, but on wage labor at the bottom of the capitalist economy. But in Peru, and arguably in the majority of the world, the people struggling to get by live on natural resources. Their day-to-day survival depends directly on the productivity of soil, the abundance of water and the access to trees for cooking and shelter.

In Peru, I hear so many stories of rural folks organizing to defend their land, their water, their trees from the multinational companies that come to extract resources and sell them to the rich world. Yesterday, a man from somewhere in the jungle said that there were government engineers snooping around and marking off land 6km into the forest from the farthest villages. At first the engineers said it was protected land, but that villagers could still hunt animals and cut trees for their personal use. But then these engineers stated that no one was to cross this new boundary. Soon other people showed up. With saws. A Chinese company started hauling out the ancient trees by the truckload. The communities formed a “Defensa Ecologica”. The next time the government engineer came around no one would give him food or lodging. Except for one family who finally let him in. They gave him a place to rest…and when he was sleeping they stole his shoes. In the morning, the angry and now shoe-less engineer had no way to tromp through the forest…

Today I talked to Juan Santos Chavez, who has built a micro-hydro system for himself and 9 other families in the village of La Libertad. Juan knows the micro-hydro system depends primary on one thing: water. And water depends on the thickly forested hill hovering over La Libertad. He and the rest of the association has talked to the owner of the forested land about the importance of keeping in forest, to protect the river’s spring for the drinking water and electricity of the village. But the land owner has defended the idea of private property and cuts “his” trees when he pleases. La Libertad say they will try and negotiate, but they have decided to take all peaceful measures necessary to defend their water.

The bloodiest conflict in Peru in recent years was not a clash of the infamous Shining Path with their Maoist ideology, but rather a confrontation in July between police and indigenous activists protesting a law that facilitated access of oil and timber multinationals to the rainforest. It was defense of rights to land and natural resources that sparked this fire.

This theme is echoed in the fight against the mining companies in the mountains of Cajamarca. Peasants march, block roads, and hold vigils to protect their land and water. In an extreme case, the Ronda Campesina captured a helicopter pilot exploring for minerals and made him walk naked around the freezing highland village for days. A mercury spill that poisoned the town of Chorropampa haunts the public memory. In a society and economy based on agriculture, the quick riches of tearing down a mountain lure some but hold know illusions for others who know their wealth and ability to survive comes from the land.

Their wealth circulates from the field to the home, to their plate and back to the field. People don’t have much cash, but they eat hearty meals, have a roof over their head and adobe or wooden walls to keep out the rain. Nature provides and they are willing to defend her.

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Portland State University and Environmental Science & Management alum Caitlyn Peake is interning with AsoFenix/Green Empowerment in Central Nicaragua. During her six month internship she will work with local communities to foster environmental conservation and to restore watershed habitat to ensure healthy water supplies for future generations. To help support her internship local restaurant and salsa club, Aztec Willies is hosting a Salsa fundraiser.  Here are the details:

When: Friday, December 11th
Salsa Lesson begins at 9:30pm

Where: Aztec Willies
1501 NE Broadway
503.280.8900

The cover is $5 and the event is 21+

For more information please contact Caitlyn Peake at cpeake@pdx.edu

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About Green Empowerment

For twelve years, Green Empowerment has partnered with rural communities and locally-based organizations in the developing world to build renewable energy and water systems to alleviate poverty and improve the environment. Our current core countries are Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, the Philippines and on the Thailand/Burma border, although we work in and have completed projects in a number of other countries.   We have a fundraising strategy and an increasing funding base.  Our operational budget for 2009 is $721,000, with over $200,000 coming from individuals, events and corporate donors.

About This Position

The Executive Director of Green Empowerment is hired by and reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for all the work of the organization, including fund-raising, program, strategic planning, public relations, human resources, and financial and administrative management.  The ED supervises all staff and must be committed to the values of Green Empowerment.  We seek a hands-on manager actively involved in all aspects of the organization’s work.

Fundraising-   25% of time

In coordination with the Development Director, develop and direct GE fundraising efforts, including individuals, events, corporations and institutional donors.

  • Identify new potential individual donors, cultivate their relationship with GE through board, staff, volunteer and other contacts, and solicit their continued and expanded contributions.
  • Oversee the bi-annual solicitation to individual contributions and GE’s participation in the Combined Federal Campaign, and other ongoing campaigns.
  • Supervise two major annual fundraising events and several smaller ones
  • Oversee corporate solicitations for sponsorship of events and projects and donations through One Percent of the Planet.
  • Assist in identifying and cultivating large institutional donors for grant applications in coordination with the Program Director

Public Relations-   25% of time

  • Enhance Green Empowerment’s reputation and visibility through branding, external communication and the website.
  • Spend significant time outside the office networking with donors, programmatic partners, corporate sponsors, and other potential supporters.

Programming   –   25% of time

In coordination with the Program Director, ensure high-quality project design and implementation.

  • Identify new programming opportunities and opportunities to strengthen existing projects.
  • Help to identify new local and international partner NGOs.
  • Make field visits in order to maintain relationships with local partners and monitor projects, and identify potential countries for expansion.

Strategic Planning-   5% of time

Ensure GE’s strategic alignment with its mission and vision

  • Under the leadership of the Board, facilitate the preparation and management of GE’s strategic plans.
  • Oversee development of annual operating plan in an open and participatory manner and ensure its high-quality implementation.
  • Provide staff support to the Board of Directors.

Human Resources-   10% of time

Directly supervise the Program Director, Development Director and Administrative personnel.

  • Ensure strong implementation of performance management systems.
  • Ensure regular updating of HR policies to enable GE to attract and retain quality staff.
  • Regularly review all compensation packages to ensure competitiveness.
  • Monitor staff morale and take corrective action, as needed.
  • Periodically review and ensure that the most appropriate organizational structure is in place to ensure program quality and cost efficiency.

Financial and Administrative Management-   10 % of time

Direct the management and accounting for GE’s financial and other resources.

  • Oversee management of the financial and other resource entrusted to GE to ensure the highest standards of accountability, including the development of an annual budget, cash flow projections, financial statements, the review and audit of financial transactions and reports, review and follow-up audit recommendations.
  • Maintain systems that allow the staff and Board to evaluate the sources of revenue and the costs per personnel and department for generating such revenue, i.e. the ROI for each department.
  • Ensure compliance with General Accounting Standards, federal and state government regulations, and donor contracts and conditions.
  • Ensure appropriate shared costs are allocated to all projects and that unrestricted funds are used appropriately.
  • Ensure strong administrative support.

Remuneration: $65,000 to $70,000 annualized, depending on experience.  This is an “at will” position, not a contract for a fixed period of employment.  Employer-paid medical insurance, paid vacation and sick leave.

Qualifications: At least five years leading a nonprofit organization or equivalent organization, with strong management, administrative and financial skills. At least five years proven ability to lead successful individual donor fund-raising and demonstrated fund-raising abilities with funding institutions, preferably for international projects.

Education: College degree, or equivalent

Skills and Knowledge:

  • Proven ability to fund-raise from individual donors.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills to develop grant proposals for foundations and international aid agencies
  • Excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Must be able to lead and manage staff, work with NGO partners, volunteers and donors, and represent the organization to the public.
  • Ability and desire to work in a dynamic nonprofit organization and commitment to the mission and values of the organization.

To Apply: Kindly send resume and cover letter by email to apply@greenempowerment.org by January 8, 2010.

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Michael Royce and Gordy Molitor, Green Empowerment’s Board President and Executive Director, are pleased to announce that Gordy will be leaving Green Empowerment and that applications are being sought for his replacement.

Following months of discussion on how best to restructure Green Empowerment, the Board agreed to move forward on the options presented by Gordy at our October 2009 Board meeting.  Over the next few months, Gordy will help us with the transition to a new Executive Director and incorporate a new Development Director position.

Gordy will be leaving Green Empowerment, at the end of January, after nearly four years.  During his tenure, Gordy led efforts to nearly double Green Empowerment’s annual cash budget, increase the number and improve the quality of our projects, strengthen our financial management, create a signature fundraising event, establish our endowment fund, and led Green Empowerment through a difficult recession, from which Green Empowerment is emerging in very sound health.

Finally (and perhaps as important as any of this other accomplishment), Gordy helped Green Empowerment through the transition from a volunteer/founder-lead NGO to a professionally staffed NGO.

Gordy is leaving after working with the Board to identify ways of strengthening our fundraising capacity and organizational sustainability.  Green Empowerment is well positioned to raise its programming to an even higher level and to bring renewable energy and potable water to thousands of additional families in the developing world.

Applications are being sought for the Executive Director job description that can be found in the blog post above.

Michael Royce                                                Gordy Molitor                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            President of the Board                                 Executive Director

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