Community Support Uganda
Community Support – Heartland to Uganda
Shannon Fulton, StraightUp Solar’s Director of Illinois Business Development, recently returned from SW Uganda where she served as a WE CARE Solar Ambassador training local health facility staff on the installation, use, and maintenance of the Solar Suitcase. WE CARE stands for Women’s Emergency Communication and Reliable Electricity and provides an innovative solar solution in a little yellow suitcase of power called the Solar Suitcase, designed to provide lighting and enable communication to save the lives of mothers and babies during childbirth. Click on the links for more information about the Solar Suitcase and WE CARE Solar.
WE CARE’s recent project in SW Uganda is part of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) grant awarded by Grand Challenges Canada to support the Saving Lives and Birth (SLAB) initiative to improve maternal mortality outcomes in 4 districts in rural SW Uganda, specifically in the Districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Rukungiri, and Kanungu. The project includes 105 health centers of various sizes and 147 solar suitcase systems. Fulton’s role as a Solar Suitcase Ambassador is to co-train with three other Ambassadors and Co-Founder Hal Aronson approximately 30 local health inspectors and cold chain technicians, teaching them to install, use, and maintain the Solar Suitcase systems. The Solar Suitcase systems incorporated a special set of components specifically for this area of Uganda. Due to the elevation and misty microclimate this area has lower solar resources than typically found at the equator. To accommodate this the suitcase needed two 80 W modules and a 38Ah Victron battery.
Following the two weeks of Solar Suitcase teaching and installation, the students are very well prepared to carry-out the remaining installations on their own. They can now teach health centers staff about the use and maintenance of the systems. “My favorite part of the training is watching and listening to the students speak in their native language as they practice teaching about the Suitcase” says Fulton. She is also proud that WE CARE recognizes technology transfer alone is not enough and reports “From the very beginning, health worker training of the type I am performing was an important focus of WE CARE Solar programs. Not only are installers and health center workers trained well to improve the health center conditions and ultimately reduce infant and mother mortality, but the children and community members are often at the same time receiving their very first electricity education – How wonderful that their first experience with electricity is a solar-powered one!”