With electricity comes power. Not only the power to connect computers to the Internet, but the power to learn and communicate. In the spirit of that power, last December the Rotary Club of San Juan Island awarded the Orcas nonprofit Helping Hands Noramise $14,000 for a solar project in Haiti.
“You have exceeded the club’s expectations,” said a rotary member at a recent meeting where Helping Hands Founder Rosedanie Cadet gave an update on the project. Cadet started the nonprofit in 2009 in her hometown of Limbe. She currently splits her time between Haiti and Orcas.
Orcas Island’s Eric Youngren, an off-grid solar power expert, designed the Haiti solar system, which can source up to 10 computers. There are five computers currently running. His systems are used all over the world from Mexico to Kenya to Tanzania.
The solar panels were installed in March along with security cameras and a motion light sensor. When asked how protected the systems are, Cadet answered: “So far so good. The panels are still on roof.”
The panels not only provide electricity but allow the Helping Hand’s center to power computers and classes. She hopes that once they have consistent Internet they can start long distance learning programs. Currently only boys are attending computer classes, but Cadet said she will continue to invite girls in the community.
Youngren also developed a grid system that can provide additional electricity from the panels to five households. Cadet hopes this will be one way that solar will generate revenue for the nonprofit.
When asked what her next project would be, Cadet said she will continue working with a sewing circle where they make cloth diapers and feminine hygiene pads. There is a shop in Olympia that will stock their wares. Her other goal is to connect elders and youth in Limbe.
“There is a huge gap,” she said at the rotary meeting. “In between there is a lost generation because there has been so much misery and corruption. The elders remember that there was something else but the younger people don’t.”
As for Rotary, they continue to contribute some funds for maintenance of the solar system by a Haitian electrician. After more than five years of trying to build something for the community of Limbe, Cadet remains optimistic.
“I am fortunate to call the San Juan Islands and Haiti my home,” she said. “They are very different and they are very much the same.”
Cali Bagby has been the treasurer for HHN for the last three years.