An innovative idea to solve a problem in Ahwatukee Foothills has ended up serving a greater purpose at a medical clinic and school in a remote village in Haiti.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Julia Hutton said it was several years ago when she was reading the newspaper alongside some house guests and heard about the need for an energy solution for the Festival of Lights.
“There was a big issue with how much it was going to cost to have electrical set up to power the Festival of Lights,” Hutton said. “One of my guests said to me, ‘I could fix that.’ He told me he knew how to make solar generators… I told him he should go talk to them about making one and see if they would be interested.”
Hutton said she’s not sure what happened to that idea, but eventually Festival of Lights found its own solution. In the meantime Hutton and her friend built the solar generator and using her business, ExTreme ReTrailers, they took it on tour to try to sell them.
“We took it around and did different things with it, but we found that people would rather carry their gas still,” Hutton said. “Even with the high price of gas it was still cheaper than a solar generator.”
The generator ended up in a storage unit.
Hutton attempted to donate the generator when she heard about a tsunami in another part of the world and doctors treating patients by candlelight because they had no way to get power, but the red tape was too difficult to get through.
Her chance to put the generator to good use came from an unlikely source — a conversation with her nurse practitioner.
Kim Gould, NP, said she has been travelling to Haiti for years assisting a village called Jubilee in the city of Gonaives. Some years ago she formed a nonprofit with a friend, called Kids Against Hunger Verde Valley, which donates pallets of food to the village and other much-needed supplies. She casually discussed her volunteer work with Hutton several times during their visits and then Hutton surprised her asking if she could use a solar generator.
“It’s a big donation for us and different from anything we had done previously,” Gould said. “We had never sent anything as large as that or something that will be of help to them continuously. That generator could last for years and years and solves a need for them that we to date had not been able to help with.”
The generator was packed onto a cargo plane at Luke Air Force Base and arrived in Haiti on March 21 with the help of the U.S. Air Force. Gould worked with her contacts in Haiti to find a way to get the generator there and find a place where it could be protected and best used.
Gould said the village her nonprofit has adopted has never had electricity. The area has suffered severe flooding several times that has made infrastructure very difficult to build and maintain.
There are several thousand people living in the village of Jubilee and in the center of the village is a medical clinic, vegetable garden and school, along with some housing on top of the school. That is where the generator will go. It will be used to power the school at night, the clinic all the time, and pump water to the gardens.
“That really warms my heart,” Hutton said. “Every time I talk about it I just get goose bumps all over. I’m so happy for them. Solar energy could really change the whole picture for underdeveloped countries.”
Gould said she has not heard yet how the generator is helping, but she has heard from people there that they are excited to have it. She’s planning a trip to go visit the village again soon to see the generator in action for herself.
“Many things get done that help for an hour or the day,” she said. “Very few things actually help on a continual basis. Even if you help build a clinic or a school or you send food regularly, all those things have to be kept up and renewed. It’s a constant effort to get people to donate time and money. This is something that needs very little maintenance and can be used for so many different things. I think it will really improve their lives.
“This is a perfect example of using solar in a place where the sun is always shining and there’s no other way to get this kind of power there.”
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