Solar energy for families in Santo Domingo, Panama

by Engineers for a Sustainable World, Northwestern U

This report was provided by Northwestern University staff on the conclusion of Project Solar energy for families in Santo Domingo, Panama:


On June 24, 2008, the GlobalGiving Foundation granted $4,538.00 to the Chagres Panama Solar Power Project to pursue the Foundation's charitable goals. The original grant period had an end date of January 1, 2009. Later, the end date was extended to November 31, 2010 and total funding was increased to $5233.64. 

In 2009 and 2010, the Chagres Project spent a total of $5120.84 to support our work in Chagres National Park in Panama. In 2009-2010, student members of the Chagres Project organized two trips to Panama to complete solar system installations and coordinate future work in the region. Funds from the GlobalGiving Foundation were primarily used to cover the costs of travel: $4800.84 was spent on airfare, immunizations, taxi fare in Panama, groceries, travel insurance, and tourist fees. An additional $320.00 was spent on electrical wiring for use in the March 2009 trip. These funds were used in conjunction with funds from other sources to make the success of the two trips possible.

We believe that the use of these funds advanced two of the Foundation's goals: Children, Youth, and Family Development, as well as Exchanges and Fellowships. Our installation of solar panel systems in family homes enables the residing and neighboring families to be productive after sunset, allowing children to finish homework and adults to pursue crafts that could serve as additional sources of income. During the trips, Chagres team members engaged local adults in the installation procedure, giving them the knowledge they need to maintain the systems as well as giving them a greater sense of ownership in the systems. In addition, team members befriended community leaders and children in the villages, developing mutually rewarding personal relationships that also facilitate future work. 

Unused funds totaling $112.80 will be returned to the Foundation.


GlobalGiving will reallocate the returned funds to the GlobalGiving General Fund. The General Fund provides matching funds and grant incentives to projects active on GlobalGiving. Since 2008, every dollar spent from this fund has resulted in an average of $6 reaching a project through an incentive campaign. If you have questions about this project, please contact Mattie Ressler at

Hello, everyone!

Our Panama Solar project has made some REMARKABLE strides in the past few weeks.

Thanks to funding secured almost exclusively through Global Giving, ESW was able to send a team down to Panama during our spring break. As you may know, we have been working with local leaders and residents of Santo Domingo, Panama, to electrify households in the community. We are happy to say that four houses were successfully wired while we were down there. This means that house electrification in Santo Domingo is complete – the entire community now has light!

With house electrification in Santo Domingo complete, we are now looking to expand our efforts in Panama. We traveled to Santa Librada, Panama, on a diplomatic visit to meet with residents and start building relationships with community leaders. During our visit in Santa Librada, we began a needs-assessment for possible projects that we might be able to assist the community with. During our tenure we compiled several documents about the community, including a complete family tree of the community, information about education systems, past efforts to bring solar devices, and skills the community has. In particular, we are hoping to continue our theme of “education with implementation” that we have done time and time again in the past: we are seeking to help the residents help themselves.

Working with ESW members, we are hoping to develop and distribute a rice huller for these communities, which would significantly help these residents with this arduous task. We are also hoping this device will increase productivity enough to bring these communities out of subsistence farming and allowing them to sell rice as a business: textbook community development!

We are also very fortunate to note that we will be working with Abbott Industries, Inc., of Chicago, IL for the Panama Solar project! Abbott is looking to work with ESW engineers and team members with these projects in providing technical and logistical advice. This means that we need your support even more – an Abbott partnership has the potential to bolster the impact of our projects more than ever!

We cannot thank our past and continued donors enough for your support. Our trip could not have happened without your generosity, and we sincerely appreciate your time with our project. Please stay tuned for more updates!

A sense of accomplishment
A sense of accomplishment

January 17, 2008

Hey, everyone!

We’ve got some great news for you about the Panama Solar Project! Last year, Santo Domingo’s community members wrote a proposal to a local government representative requesting funding to provide electricity for half of the households in the community. He agreed to pay for 10 electrical systems, and we recently found out that all of the installations are complete!

This is terrific not only for these 10 families, but also for all the local communities—having the involvement of local institutions and funding makes it more possible to replicate and sustain the project. This also means that our group only needs to buy supplies for 4 more households to reach the total of 17! During spring break, we’ll send a team to Panama to buy supplies and supervise these installations. We’re recalculating our budget, but we’d still appreciate donations to help cover travel and supply costs. And we’re not done yet!

Stay tuned--we’ll continue building our relationships with the people of Santo Domingo and Santa Librada. We’re planning to start a new project in Santa Librada: either the installation of a computer at the school to give kids a chance to learn computer literacy, or the electrification of households to improve quality of life. For Santo Domingo, we’re considering designing an environmentally-friendly and more economical version of a machine that removes the hulls from rice—a grueling task when done by hand, which is how the communities process their rice now. Having the machine would free up time and allow the communities to increase their productivity and thus their economic situation.

We would really appreciate donations to help us get started on these new projects. If we raise enough, we could even potentially bring a laptop to Santa Librada on our next trip! Thanks so much for your generosity—it’s made a huge difference for these people!

The long-anticipated moment has arrived! After months of planning, this August we will be sending our team members Kari Nigorizawa, Christopher Vega, and Christine Twist, as well as our solar professional advisor Joe Philip and his wife Csilla to Santo Domingo, Panama to start implementing the house electrification project.

During the trip, our team plans to install 3 solar panel systems. The first installation will be an educational demonstration. The second and third will be guided installations performed by Santo Domingo’s solar committee (a small group of community members who will be in charge of installation and maintenance). By the end of the project, 17 systems will be installed. Yes, this is a larger number than the originally requested 14 systems—a good reminder of the importance of flexibility when working in a different culture and environment!

While our teammates are in Panama, they will ensure that Santo Domingo’s solar committee has a complete knowledge of how to install and maintain the systems. They will also make sure that the community will be able to obtain the rest of the supplies, and any needed technical expertise, from local solar vendors.

Before they leave Panama, our teammates will also travel to the small city of Portobelo to work on a wastewater treatment project—they never stop trying to make the world better!

Stay tuned for an update after our team returns. We’ll have exciting stories and pictures so you can learn a little more about the community you’re helping. Thank you so much for your generosity and for helping us to make a difference. And please consider donating again to help us complete the project!

If you have any questions, email me (Bethany Summersgill) at Thanks again!


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Organization Information

Engineers for a Sustainable World, Northwestern U

Project Leader:
Project Leader
Project Leader
Manalapan, NJ United States

Funded Project!

Thanks to 117 donors like you, a total of $5,938 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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