As soon as the two trucks carrying the construction material pulled into San Jose, a crowd of giggling children and curious adults formed outside the school. San Jose is a beautiful village, a sprinkling of houses in the midst of a massive coffee plantation. It’s a village cut off from the world, but with a window out to the mysteries beyond. Every winter hundreds of temporary farm workers descend on the area to pick coffee beans, exchanging stories and dreams in the process. The way the community immediately warmed to the outsiders coming to install lights showed they are used to the excitement of newcomers and the exchange that comes along with them.
The impact that lights and electricity will have on the community is apparent right away. This is a community itching to be a part of the larger world, and itching for opportunities to grow. United Solar Initiative teamed up with Sister Communities of San Ramon to work with the community and design a system that fits their needs and helps give them some of the modernity that was beyond their reach before they had electricity. Before these projects on dark days or at night, when the adults were done working on the coffee farms and want to learn, the school used kerosene lanterns to light the enclosed classrooms. Additionally, the one connection to the outside world, their cell phones, were unable to be used frequently without a way to charge them. Every week community members sent their cell phones to town with whoever was going that week to pay for charging in town, a drain on an already limited income, and a constriction on their only connection to the larger world.
USI worked together with Sister Community of San Ramon to plan and Suni Solar to construct a 250-watt system on the roof of the school San Jose that will give them interior and exterior lights and cell phone charging and the occasional video or computer lesson rain or shine.
We are very happy to say that San Jose now has a sustainable source of energy to use for the education of their community and to connect them to the world beyond the coffee fields.