A Brighter Future

  • Community Growth
  • Environment
  • Panama
This project is led by Franchesca Ruiz, a Volunteer from California

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Community interest meeting photo.
Franchesca works with her counterparts to facilitate the solar panel project.

The project, Bring Light, is a community initiated project, spearheaded by the community and a small directive of community members with support from Peace Corps. The small directiva is composed of 3 primary members who have agreed to take on a more active role in the solar panel project. They want to learn from this experience and solar panel project so that they could start soliciting for electricity to be brought to our town. Together we will co-plan and facilitate the project activities, finances and a community waste management initiative. Through mediated discussions, the community members have identified waste management as an environmental issue and would like to start work to alleviate it effects on the community. The community is a rural farming village in the foothills of central Panama. Access to the community is difficult, it is about an hour drive on very rough roads and with few transport options. The folks there make their living by farming their own food and earning a little income by working for wealthier land owners, making 8 to 10 dollars a day when work is available. There is no electricity. With the support of this grant, the community will purchase 33 solar panel kits from a trusted vendor, which provides three light bulbs and the ability to charge simple USB devices. 33 solar panels will provide a kit for each of the 33 families. 

The project goal is to improve the environmental and human health by using a clean energy source for light. Having the solar panels will allow more time for evening and morning activities like cooking, studying and socializing. The solar panels will eliminate the kerosene lamps that community members make from old bottles and shirts. The result is less smoke polluting the environment and affecting the health of community members. Access to more, brighter light will allow students to study longer and achieve a higher level of education. Each of the 3 light solar panel kits cost $140.00 and each family will contribute $50 to the cost. In one of the project activities, we will discuss financial budgeting and create a savings plan to ensure that the community will be able to pay for the kits. Apart from the money they will pay, the community will contribute to the project by attending 4 environmentally focused workshops and 2 community service work days, which will educate and empower the community to be proactive in the environmental conservation of their community.

 The workshops will be given by myself and other Peace Corps Volunteers, local government agencies and community members. The focus will be renewable energies and global climate change, specifically focused on issues regarding trash management and recycling. The community service project will involve cleaning the community roads and rivers of trash, creating new trash cans for central locations and making recycling focused signs to post around the community. Follow up will be completed by community members to track the use of light in the community, how community members are applying their new environmental knowledge and skills and to address any technical issues with the solar panels.The community service project will involve cleaning the community roads and rivers of trash, creating new trash cans for central locations and making environmentally focused signs to post around the community.

When the kits are delivered to the community, the participants will fill out an initial Installation and Maintenance survey for each home. One year later, they will fill it out again for each house to see if they have continued maintaining the solar panel kit properly and identify any technical problems with the solar panel kits.

Community Contributions
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