Sunday, February 28, 2010

The older I get the more cynical I become about a vast variety of "do good" projects, whether right wing, left wing or no wing whatsoever. rather than being a total curmudgeon, however, I do always search for things that I find encouraging rather than discouraging. What follows is one such thing. The SELF (Solar Electric Light Fund) seems to me to be the sort of thing that actually benefits the recipients of what is called "aid" rather than benefiting the giver by subterfuge. Hopefully my first impression is true. I certainly approve of their fellow organization, the Partners in Health. See what follows for links. Here's the promo from the Care2 site.
Rebuilding with Sun Power: SELF Fosters Clean Energy and Community Building
posted by: Nancy Roberts
As the disasters in Haiti and now Chile are showing us, the challenges of immediate relief can be dwarfed by the needs of long-term, sustainable development in agriculture, sanitation, infrastructure, and education all over the world. The Inter American Development Bank recently estimated that the cost of reconstruction in Haiti alone could be $14 billion. But can the rebuilding be done in a way that will truly help people in the long term, not by rebuilding in the same way, but by taking advantage of the opportunity to improve health, well being and the environment?
Traditional aid models have often focused on sending money and products that are not aligned with the destination's culture or environment. Others are seeking a better way. An 18 year old nonprofit called SELF (Solar Electric Light Fund) is taking a different approach, based on community self determination, to alleviate "energy poverty" in parts of the U.S. and around the world. SELF designs and implements sustainable energy solutions in the developing world. In partnership with government, business, and NGOs, SELF has facilitated solar electricity projects in more than 15 countries in the belief that sustainable, solar energy sources will greatly help to meet global challenges of food and water scarcity, climate change and poverty.
In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, SELF is working with the NGO Partners in Health to speed the process of helping all 10 PIH healthcare centers in Haiti run on solar power, so that they will no longer be dependent on diesel fuel, which is expensive, polluting and in short supply after the earthquake. Sadly, Walt Ratterman, one of SELF's staff, was killed in the quake in Port au Prince. A true solar hero, he had been working with SELF since 2006 in Rwanda, Benin, Lesotho and Burundi as well as Haiti, helping SELF implement solar systems and train villagers.
SELF takes the phrase Power to the People seriously, and literally. Their Solar Integrated Development Model is based on principles of Self determination--villagers choose solar electrification projects and determine their own priorities; Self-help--villagers purchase the systems through micro-credit financing; and Self-reliance, where the villager (men and women) are trained in the installation and maintenance of their systems.
It can be overwhelming to contemplate the multiple needs of living beings who are hungry, frightened, uneducated or threatened, and I am so grateful for the thousands of non-profit agencies, like SELF, that are attempting to address these needs in the face of daunting odds. As we reflect today on the hardship brought on by catastrophe and by long-term conditions, the words of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda encourage us to reach across the artificial boundaries of nations to help as we can:
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.
Pablo Neruda: "Too Many Names"

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