Notes from the Field: Not Your Typical Summer Internship

by Kelly Cannon, International Program Intern

Gathering feedback from the community helps us implement successful programs.
Gathering feedback from the community helps us implement successful programs.

So I thought I would attempt to share a little glimpse into my life-changing summer experience. I’ll start with a bit of background. My name is Kelly Cannon. I’m a Global Studies and Spanish major with a Business minor currently studying at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I landed a position as the International Programs Intern with the non-profit organization Trees, Water & People (TWP) this summer. I was enthused. The internship seemed to combine all of my passions – community development, travel, Latin America, Spanish, people, and adventure. I could not wait for the incredible learning opportunity ahead.

So just like that I found myself spending six weeks exploring every corner of Honduras and Guatemala generating market data for a clean energy distribution enterprise. I conducted household interviews, held focus groups, taught communities about solar energy, while also exploring the competitive landscape, supply chain opportunities and developing a marketing plan for solar energy distribution in energy-poor regions of Guatemala.

maizI visited dozens of communities throughout these regions, but I want to share about my experience in one place in particular. La Bendición, Guatemala is surrounded by breathtaking views of lush, green landscape and three volcanoes. The best part about staying in La Bendición was just living life with the people there. I stayed with a host family for four days. I spent a large amount of time with my host mom and her daughter, Silsy. We woke up at 6:00am and brought a bucket of corn to the molino. We waited in line with all the other women, poured the corn through some complicated machinery, and watched it transform into flour used to make tortillas. I’m pretty sure I became a professional tortilla-maker by the time I left the community.

Gautemala

Another morning my mom and Silsy took me on a long walk to a cornfield where their cows graze. We visited the animals and then picked a big bundle of leaves off the corn. When we returned home, they taught me how to fold the leaves around flour to make tamales. Later that afternoon, they called me out to the backyard for another lesson. They snatched up one of the chickens running around the yard and held it over the pila (the outdoor sink). My mom and Silsy broke its’ neck right in front of me, poured out the guts and blood, and plucked the feathers off the body before putting it in a bucket of hot water. One hour later we were all sitting around the table eating the tamales and the chicken. I treasure my time in La Bendición experiencing a new way of life with my host mom and Silsy. I learned so much about their daily tasks while sharing in wonderful conversation. I fell in love with moments during my time there that I will always cherish.

community outreach
The children look on curiously as we conduct interviews with their parents.

In addition to living life with the people in La Bendición, I was of course also working on the solar energy project for TWP. I held a meeting with the women in La Bendición the day I arrived to teach them about the solar energy products that TWP distributes and let them know I would be visiting households and conducting interviews. I wanted to ask families about how they illuminated their houses at night with no access to electricity, calculate their current energy expenditures, demonstrate the products, and gauge their interest in this alternate form of clean energy. The women expressed gratitude and excitement at the meeting and many volunteered to be interviewed first. Over the next few days Silsy and I talked to seventeen different families in La Bendición. The community, as a whole, showed great interest in the solar energy products. The people told me about the extreme need for this project in their community and the obstacles they face on a daily basis due to the absence of light. Many families wanted to purchase the lights from me on the spot. Sadly, I had to explain I was not selling the products just doing a preliminary investigation in order to bring the products to the community in the future.

The experience in La Bendición was eye-opening and encouraging. I felt at home there. The interviews allowed me to learn a lot about the current energy situation in this community and in Guatemala as a whole. The people were supportive and welcoming, especially once they learned my purpose for visiting. When I left on a chicken bus that Friday morning to head to a new community, some of the women came out, kissed me on the cheek, and wished me luck on the rest of my trip. I was sad to leave but also even more excited and passionate about bringing solar energy to families in hard-to-reach communities.

Photo of the Week: Solar Warriors in Training

solar energy trainees

About this photo

Solar Warriors in training graduate from the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) with certificates in grid-tied PV systems and a new set of green job skills. Congrats to the new graduates!

To learn more about the Tribal Renewable Energy Program please visit our website.

 

Photo of the Week: A New Class of Solar Warriors

Native American green job trainees
Photo Credit: Mark Boyer 2013

About this photo

Renewable energy is an appropriate technology that compliments Native American culture and their deep connection to Mother Earth. For Native communities in the American west, abundant sunlight and wind resources offer huge potential for clean energy. In the Great Plains alone, an estimated wind resource of over 500 billion kilowatt hours a year could be harvested—about 14% of the United States’ total electricity production.

As part of the Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s green job training series, nine Solar Warriors were recently trained at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. Our trainees traveled from the Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Crow Creek, and Northern Cheyenne Reservations to attend the multi-day battery-tied PV workshop. Congrats to the new graduates!

Notes from the Field: Solar Trainees Power the SunMobile

by Claire Burnett, National Program Assistant

native american solar trainess

As part of the Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s green job training series, nine Solar Warriors were trained last week at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. Our trainees traveled from the Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Crow Creek, and Northern Cheyenne Reservations to attend the multi-day workshop.

During the training, students learned about battery-tied photovoltaic systems, successfully wired the SunMobile to be a mobile power station for PA systems at Pow Wows, and visited our most recent solar panel install at the KILI Radio Station to see a grid-tied PV system. The training was a great success and we thank all of our hardworking students – you guys rock!

We would also like to thank the Scoob Trust Foundation for sponsoring five scholarships for this training. In addition, we had guest instructors Stephen Kane (Kane Solar) and Steve Carroll (Namaste Solar) – we couldn’t have done it without their donated time and equipment – thank you both!

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Photo of the Week: Happy Birthday Henry Red Cloud!

Happy Birthday to our dear friend and partner, Henry Red Cloud! You are a true inspiration to so many people; your tireless efforts to transform the tribal energy approach sets an example for what is possible when we work together to harness the renewable energy of Mother Nature.
Happy Birthday to our dear friend and partner, Henry Red Cloud! You are a true inspiration to so many people; your tireless efforts to transform the tribal energy approach sets an example for what is possible when we work together to harness the renewable energy of Mother Nature.

Tribal Renewable Energy Program: 2012 Impact

Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program puts the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans. Working with reservation communities, TWP builds and installs supplemental solar air heaters for families in need and provides green job training to tribes around the country. These solutions are sustainable, economically beneficial, environmentally friendly, and celebrate the Native Americans’ respect for Mother Earth.

In 2012, we were able to make a big impact on the tribal lands where we work. Thanks to our generous supporters, more than 600 people are staying warm this winter with solar air heating systems. In addition, we are training more “Solar Warriors” who now have the knowledge to build and install solar heating systems within their reservation communities, helping to spread renewable energy throughout the tribal lands of the U.S.

Tribal Renewable Energy Program Impact 2012

Notes from the Field: Solar Warriors Bring Heat to Eastern Shoshone

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

Lacey Gaechter visits with “Solar Technician 1” Trainees and Henry Red Cloud (left) at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe’s 477 Employment and Training Program sent three Solar Warriors to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center at the end of October to be trained on building and installing solar heaters. In addition, the tribe purchased 25 solar air heaters from our partner, Lakota Solar Enterprises. The mission of the 477 Program is to help unemployed tribal members find work that benefits the entire community. In this case, the tribe is not only employing these three Solar Warriors, but also providing clean, free heat for 25 elderly and disabled Eastern Shoshone living on the Wind River Reservation.

Congrats, Solar Warriors!

Henry Red Cloud, Trees, Water & People’s partner in operating the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, spent last week in Fort Washakie, WY, conducting site visits with the students. I got to the reservation just in time to shake the hands of these new green job recipients, Chris Tiger, Richard Bearing, and Michael Timbana. Michael told me that he wants to start his own solar business to help his tribe, and I hope we can help him do that! Richard, who is actually a Northern Arapaho, married to an Eastern Shoshone woman, was unemployed and says of his time with Henry, “It has had a great impact [on my life]. I learned a lot and met some new people that I now call friends. I also have a new job.”

 Thanks to the 477 Program for creating these opportunities on your beautiful and historic reservation and congrats to the new Trainees for all they have accomplished.

Support Tribal Renewabale Energy When You Offset Your Impact

Every year, each of our solar air heaters  prevents 1.39 tons of carbon emissions from being generated by its combustible alternatives. When you contribute to this renewable energy Carbon Offset option, you help not only our environment, but also the struggling families that will now receive free, clean heat from the sun. To learn more or to purchase carbon offsets today please click here.

How do we calculate your offset?

Calculations for CO2 Offsetting by Solar Heaters

Your carbon offset purchase goes into a dedicated fund at Trees, Water & People to build “carbon offset heaters.” Once we have sold 28 tons of carbon offsets (the total lifetime of avoided emissions for one heater), that means we have enough money to build a solar air heater collector panel. We combine these carbon offsets funds, which supply the collector panel, with existing funds to pay for the remainder of the heater kit and its installation. That means that, thanks to you, our “carbon offset heaters” will be up and running, preventing the use of carbon-based fuels, and heating homes of families in need. We would not be able to build these heaters without your contribution!

Our “carbon offset heaters” only go to homes that would otherwise get heat from electricity or fire wood, both very common heat-sources on Native American reservations, where we distribute almost all of our systems. The average carbon dioxide emissions avoided by using solar air heaters instead of wood or electricity is 3,072 pounds annually according to the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (http://www.rreal.org/solar-assistance/pricing/). At 2,204 pounds per metric ton, that means our heaters avoid 1.39 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Barring any damage, our collector panels have a 20 year lifespan, leading to a total of 27.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide avoided in a panel’s lifetime.

Notes from the Field: A New Class of Solar Warriors

By Lacey Gaechter, Assistant National Director

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Program, a record 16 trainees from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe completed a ten day solar air heater installation training with our partner Henry Red Cloud. Henry traveled to Lame Deer, Montana to instruct the students in assembly and installation of solar heater kits. In addition, each trainee received a solar air heater for their family home. One of the new “Solar Warriors,” Landon Means, has been interested in renewable energy for years after growing up with his father employed by the Pea Body Coal Mine.  Landon says of the mine, “It looks like an energy intensive way to get energy. I think there’s a better way. There has to be a better way.” Landon and his cousin Kale are among the renewable energy enthusiasts now working with Trees, Water & People to develop their own sustainable livelihoods on their reservations. They both plan to attend Henry’s upcoming straw bale demonstration and hopefully his radiant heating demonstration this fall.

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Trees, Water & People could not provide these life-altering trainings without the support of our sponsors and donors. Thank you for your support, and a special thanks to the National Wildlife Federation!

For more information about TWP’s Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program please visit http://treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/tribal_intro.htm

Proud Solar Warriors (Photo Courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation)