I am just back from Guatemala where I met with the lead teacher for women's class for Circuits and Solar.
We had 32 women sign up to learn to teach the class for the Spring / Summer term. We had originally decided that we would teach 2 women mentors in the Spring and another 2 women in the Fall. With such enthusiasm on the part of the teachers we have changed the program to teach 12 Mayan women mentors this summer and a total of 45 students in the fall. Note: This far exceeds our original goal of teaching 4 women mentors and 24 - 36 students.
This leaves us with a dilemma. We have created a class that bridges the technology gap between men and women but because the class is expensive to teach (each student and teacher receives a solar power kit which costs ATC just under $100.00 each) plus we have had to add a class in how to use basic construction tools for the women mentors. It looks like we are going to come up short at the end of the year by $3,500 - $4,000.
We try to have our reports be upbeat and not just another request for funding. Unfortunately this time we need to break with our tradition and ask you for a donation to help this program be the success people have come to expect from The Appropriate Technology Collaborative.
Also of news, we have made some changes in the curriculum and how the class is taught. Each student and teacher will be responsible for installing their solar power system in a home or other building that lacks electricity. They will work in groups so everyone has experience with more than one installation.
Our project has a new name: "Mayan Power and Light" We are collaborating with the NGO "Starfish One-by-One" to teach young Mayan women about electricity and solar power and we are going to help start a women's solar power cooperative.
We hired Formative Evaluation Research Associates (FERA) to help us assess our impact for this project. FERA is an independent evaluation group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan that has provided evaluation and learning opportunities to the nonprofit sector for over 35 years.
FERA works with clients engaged in innovative efforts at the local, national, and international levels. These clients include foundations and their grantees, nonprofit organizations, strategic alliances and collaborative efforts, and networks/membership associations.
In January Dr. Karin Tice of FERA visited our partners in Guatemala, and she visited potential clients for solar sales and installations.
The first take aways from Dr. Tice's preliminary report are:
1. The teachers and students are very engaged already with the project.
2. The value of solar is greater than we expected. Rural Guatemalan's that do not have electricity are spending more on candles and kerosene lamps than our original estimate. This makes sales of solar lighting systems a better model for a business than we anticipated.
3. Our Engineers are ready starting February 27th to work with our partners, Starfish One-by-One, and teach the Starfish mentors the solar curriculum.
4. Our Executive Director is traveling tonight to Guatemala with teaching materials and home solar energy systems to get the first class started.
We are very excited to get to the real work of this project.
We will keep you posted on how things are developing, and
Thank you so very much for making this project possible!
Our class for the girls will be taught in March of 2013, and materials are on their way to Guatemala. Based on the girls' goals of operating a cooperative and the business potential, we have expanded the course.
Originally, we would be teaching them the basics of circuits and solar technology. Now we are adding transistors to the curriculum. Transistors are the basis of all electronic devices. Having this key knowledge, the girls would be able to create a variety of businesses to support themselves. Having this skill set will allow the girls the flexibility to respond to the needs of their community as it integrates with technology and their knowledge will give them a level of personal power to take care of their needs and their families.
In March, we also hope to talk with the girls about their school being the base for classes that we would teach to fellow nonprofits about solar, solar cooperatives and creating solar businesses. This would also give the girls a chance to work with others outside their community, building their people skills.
In the middle photo you will see our girls: Yolanda, Elisabeth, Selena, Reyna and Lorena.
Here are some photographs and a new video from our recent trip to Guatemala! These are some of the young women that are planning to learn solar and circuits from our course and from there, build their own solar cooperative, providing steady employment for them and income for their families.
I want to mention one particular point about the video. If you watch closely, you will see the girls smiling as they climb the ladder to the roof where our solar panels are installed. For all of them, this is the VERY FIRST time they have done this! Yet their dream is so compelling, that they are challenging themselves to broaden their experiences and learn new skills.
I hope the glimpse of our girls taking their first steps towards their dream of a solar cooperative inspires you to help us make it become real, to give them the skills they desire to fulfill their hopes and make their dreams come true.
We recently went to Guatemala to meet with our partners, mentors and prospective students in this project.
Our mentors are all female, to help our students overcome cultural shyness and get the most from the training. We have done our best to draw from the local culture, so that the women who mentor the girls are aware of cultural cues, language and have experience with solar. The girls are very modest young women, yet once we got them to the roof, their curiousity took hold and they examined the examined the solar array thoroughly. During our visit, our partner organization, Starfish, was filming the girls for a video promoting the class.
Currently, we are on schedule to teach the class in February in Guatemala. We are accepting volunteers to travel with us for this course. We have posted 2 links to photos of the girls on Flickr and will add more as time permits.
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