Holy Cross Education Foundation

It is the mission of Holy Cross Education Foundation to provide funding and administrative assistance to schools that strive to provide the highest quality primary education to children in disadvantage areas. We seek to effectively help prepare students for the challenges of life in the 21st century - spiritually, mentally, morally, emotionally and physically by providing a state-of-the-art educational environment.
Dec 28, 2015

Funding Goal for Phase 3 Solar Getting Closer!

Typical San Mateo Scene
Typical San Mateo Scene

Greetings and many blessings to you and yours this Christmas and Holiday season ---

Since my last report, fund-raising for the project has been steady and I want to thank you all for continuing to support the children of Holy Cross Anglican School located in San Mateo, Belize. Holy Cross is nearing its ten-year anniversary, and we are extremely proud that it is now being entirely managed under the Belizean primary school authorities. Yet at the same time, in particular due to its location near the entrance to San Mateo, it remains a public school with deep and ongoing needs that can only be met by continuing outside assistance.

That said, the presence of the school has acted as a beacon of hope and opportunity for San Mateans and has raised the awareness of public officials concerning the needs this "sub-division" still has --- for example, while there are now some roads, many of the homes not near road access remain as they have been for a decade or more (picture attached). Furthermore, roads were constructed without an adequate drainage plan -- thus the salt marsh is now impeded from moving in and out of the area.

This creates standing brackish water which can breed mosquitoes and other disease carrying agents -- whereas before the salt marsh tides tended to keep these at bay. Furthermore, the lack of any sanitary sewage system plus the increasing population combine to put San Mateans at very high-risk for disease. Incomes remain remarkably low, and the additional population means that there are still not enough classrooms to serve all the children of primary school age -- thus many still roam the streets without any place to go to school.

Thus the Holy Cross five-year expansion plan as discussed in my last report. Attached are several pictures of a classroom expansion that occurred this past summer, enabling us to grow with the size of the 7th and 8th grade classes that had become too large for the existing space, representing the first classroom project completed within the new five year plan.

The need for expansion further underscores our commitment to build on renewable energy both as an environmental benefit and to reduce operating costs. Thanks to you, our donors, we have now pushed past the $70,000 ($70,153 as of the writing of this report) mark in overall funds raised .... with our baseline for Phase 3 being $54,670.60, we have raised $15,482 toward our overall need for $28,000 to fund Phase 3 --- leaving us just $12,500 short. This is excellent news -- so long as our giving remains consistent.

We are eagerly anticipating our next site visit which occur as part of a Foundation Board meeting in early February 2016. At the Board meeting, we will continue to refine our five-year plan based on negotiations with local officials. This should allow us to further prioritize the construction projects ahead. It would be wonderful if, by that time, we could complete our Phase 3 solar fund-raising so that we could sign our Phase 3 contract with Baker Renewable Energy. Can we make that goal? I'm not sure, but you can certainly make an impact by contributing toward it during the holiday season. Consider making a one-time gift of $100, or consider signing up as a renewing contributor if you have not already. All donations are tax deductible, and make a difference in the lives of the children that attend Holy Cross.

May the joy and love of this season be with you now and through the New Year.

John

New Classroom Construction: Foundation
New Classroom Construction: Foundation
New Classroom: laying flooring
New Classroom: laying flooring
New classroom: Construction team
New classroom: Construction team
New classroom: walls and roof
New classroom: walls and roof
New classroom: nearing completion
New classroom: nearing completion
Sep 29, 2015

Phase 3 Solar and thank you Miss Grace!

Greetings!!

Our plans for Phase 3 solar --- another 5KW array to join the two current 5KW arrays -- are moving foward -- although a little slower than previously planned. Nonetheless, due to your generosity, we have raised an additional $1000 toward our goal in the last few weeks. We had an excellent response to the GG matching campaign and a new anonymous recurring donor! This is making a meaningful dent in the funds we need to account for in order to sign our Phase 3 contract with BRE. 

BRE has concluded a sight survey and due to our facility expansion plans there is no question that adding a third array plus continuing to reduce roof-top heating with reflective coat paint is the best strategy. I've attached an architectural drawing (pdf) of the expansion plans, which include 12 more elementary school classrooms, a ball-field, a chapel, and a 2-year vocational high school. Most of the "land" required will need to be land-filled since the school is constructed on the edge of a mangrove swamp in the impoverished community of San Mateo. I enclose a picture rendition of the expansion plans, which have now been endorsed by the local political authorities. BRE has also provided an updated cost estimate for phase three, which is in line with our expectations. We continue to be greatful to BRE for all they have done for the school!!

Sadly, our dedicated and wonderful principal, Miss Grace, became ill last spring and passed away a couple of weeks ago. She was the first Belizean principal to assume full and official administrative authority over the school and did an outstanding job working with teachers and students to help the school become highly ranked in national testing despite the rather desperate living conditions from which most of the students come. She was also a champion for continuing to work effectively with the volunteers that have helped the school to address the educational needs of the impoverished. She will be greatly missed, and I dedicate this report in her honor.

A new principal has been selected by the Belizean Education Ministry and he indicates his interest in continuing to work closely with our Board and the volunteers.

We still have a substantial amount of funds to be raised -- about $15,000 -- before we feel we have enough to sign the new contract with BRE. Again, recall that BRE donates all of their technical time -- including travel --- as well as sells us all panel and array components at cost. They are proposing to donate $7500 in like-kind costs for Phase 3!!

In that light -- I urge you to consider making one or more special gifts this fall that would help make a significant dent in the $15K we need to finish fund raising. We thank you for all you have done and will do for the children of Holy Cross through our renewable energy project. Let's go do it for Phase 3!

John


Attachments:
Jun 29, 2015

Site Survey Updates and Strategic Planning

HCAS Graduation 2015
HCAS Graduation 2015

Greetings!!

I know it has been awhile since I have posted a report -- my apologies. However, we have been very busy with continued planning for our Phase 3 solar project, having made two site visits since the last report -- I just returned from the latest one a couple of days ago, and wanted to wait to post this report until I returned.

The first visit was conducted March 23-27. As part of that visit, I took care to review the funcationality of our two existing 5KW solar arrays that you have so graciously made possible. It turned out that our software reporting systems were down on both arrays, meaning that we could not get current power production statistics. One "Envoy" was offline due to a rat that had eaten through an internet cable, and that was fixed shortly after my return. Back online, this system is reporting full functionality on the newer array --- noting that the reporting systems only monitor power production and do not affect it if they go offline. So, there has been no service interruption on the newer array. The older "Envoy" system had gone down as well, but due to power variability in the wall outlet. This was fixed by finding a more stable source of power -- it is now showing that we have at least one bad microinverter on the older system - so most likely one panel out of the 20 in this array is not providing the power it should.

Upon my return from the first site visit I met with Baker Renewable Energy to discuss strategy to provide for more efficient ways to troubleshoot and repair problems when we are not at the school. We decided that when BRE makes their next visit to finalize the design for Phase 3, they would bring a set of microinverter spares to have on hand. I also contacted a local supplier that is willing to act as a liaison and volunteer his time to do troubleshooting as well as get trained by Baker to make repairs if and when needed. So I think we have a solid plan to improve our ability to respond to issues with the system.

The Baker meetings were excellent. They are going to get back on site in September and finish their engineering design for Phase 3 (more on this below).

This past week I returned to the site to participate in school graduation (8th grade) and our annual Board meeting.The first picture attached shows part of our 30+ students that graduated. Only one student could not graduate due to failing the national exam -- all others passed! The first picture below is from the graduation ceremony.

The Board is focused on long range strategic planning and have engaged the mayor and other local officials as part of the process. We are currently looking at -- most likely --- doubling the size of the school over the next five years to include the addition of more grade school classrooms, a vocational high school, and a chapel/rectory. The second picture shows board members in the school library discussing our long-range expansion plans. Clearly, this will require substantially more renewable energy as we strive to hold operating costs as low as possible. Further, this may end up requiring a mix of solar and wind with some storage (battery) capacity and perhaps a mix of on-grid net-metering and off-grid components.

The next picture shows the current development of a new 50-student classroom -- which will be complete in time for the start of the new school year. Demand for primary education continues to grow as people move in looking for work and a better life -- and sometimes not being able to find either. Though the San Mateo community has "improved" somewhat over the last five years - especially with the addition of more reliable electricity -- the roadway system was constructed without any thought to proper drainage between the tidal marsh and the community itself -- cutting off much standing water from the adjacent bay. This is leading to much higher bacteria levels and breeding mosquitos -- which were not a problem in the past. Clearly, the continuing lack of ANY sanitary sewage in San Mateo remains a huge concern for the majority of our students that reside there.

This past week I also did a pictorial survey for Baker of various breaker boxes --- now at capacity -- as well as meters. The last set of pictures attached here shows those. Components of Phase 3 will include (1) a wiring assessment to detect and correct any faulty wiring that might be contributing to unstable power and/or over-consumption, such as crossing hot and ground wires; (2) meter and breaker assessment, to determine how to best connect our Phase 3 array. It is likely that both a new meter and breaker will be needed as overall school demand for power continues to rise; (3) location and configuration of the next set of solar panels.

So -- while much work remains before Phase 3 plans are finalized, progress is being made. Our liason on the ground is going to proceed with the wiring assessment and ensuring that he gets trained to do troubleshooting and repairs; BRE will be making a site visit in September to finalize Phase 3 engineering plans; and last but not least -- WE must finish raising the funds needed to sign our Phase 3 contract with BRE this fall. Please recall that BRE donates all of their technical time -- including travel --- as well as sells us all panel and array components at cost. Thank you Baker Renewable Energy.

In that light -- I urge you to consider making one or more special gifts this summer that would help make a significant dent in the $16K that we need to finish raising to make Phase 3 happen. We thank you for all you have done and will do for the children of Holy Cross through our renewable energy project. Let's go do it for Phase 3!

John

Board member strategic planning
Board member strategic planning
New classroom construction summer 2015
New classroom construction summer 2015
BRE meter cover ... Phase 1 solar array
BRE meter cover ... Phase 1 solar array
Breakers 1 and 2 nearing capacity
Breakers 1 and 2 nearing capacity
Breaker 3 nearing capacity
Breaker 3 nearing capacity

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