Sunday, September 19, 2010

Solar Cooking in Haiti

My first trip to Haiti was an eyeopener... What a rotten hand this country has been dealt!! With a terrain, climate & infrastructure much like that of African countries, there are not enough resources with which to deal with the aftermath of the terrible earthquake that happened almost a year ago, in January of 2010... rubble & destruction still litter the landscape of the capitol city, & while people work hard to restore their home, there are very few options in regards to removing the debris.

I traveled to Haiti on behalf of Solar Cookers International (SCI) to evaluate the solar cooking trainers at the Free Methodist Church (FMC) in Port au Prince, & check out some of the schools where the FMC plann to incorporate solar cooking into the 5th grade curriculum.

The trainers use SunOvens when not possible, which are supplied by Paul Munsen who owns the Illinois-based SunOven corporation & is very active in Haiti. The SunOvens are some of the fastest-cooking & well-built solar cookers available.

A glimpse of one of the busier streets in Port au Prince, seen from the FMC training center.

The buildings right next door to the FMC Mission compound evidenced only a small degree of the devastation experienced in January.

The main supermarket in town was one of the first buildings to go, leaving many without access to food & supplies.

Sights like these are everywhere you look.

Tent cities erected to house those who lost their homes in the earthquake... by July of this year, nearly 1.5 million people were living in tents.

Government agencies like USAID & the Red Cross supplied many tent cities.

A tap tap ~ the Haitian 'taxi', is the principal mode of transportation in populated areas.

Street vendors in Port au Prince.

The luckier schools had wells to provide children & staff with clean drinking water.

Schools sponsored by FMC are usually attached to the churches.

Where funding is available, the churches are rebuilding classrooms.

An interesting architectural design ~ many buildings in Haiti make use of the flat rooves, & build in staggered levels to ensure this model ~ perfect for solar cooking !

A typical classroom.

Classes are frequently held outside, under trees, in the absence of adequate shelter.

Children are lucky to have class under tents supplied by the government & aid agencies.

Cute kids, can hardly WAIT for school to start ; )

Fruit @ the market.

Old school shacks, made out of cardboard & corrugated tin, are common living arrangements.

Gardy, head solar cooking trainer @ FMC, starts off the training program in a classroom at the Mission. The trainees are teachers at FMC schools across the country.

Gardy showing the students how solar cookers work with local food.

Louinette does amazing things with local food in the solar cookers every day.

Cookers set to cooking in the sun during training.

The FMC Mission compound, where guests stay.

Trainer #2, Esnaider, showing the trainees how to construct a CooKit with local materials.

Gluing foil on the cardboard cutouts.

The trainees enjoying the fruits of their efforts : )

Trainers & trainees with the CooKits they made during training.

Trainers extraordinaire: Gardy & Barthelemy.

Giving the class another perspective on solar cooking.

Handing out certificates to the trainees at the end of training.

The hard working trainees with their certificates.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Headed for Haiti

Contracting for Solar Cookers International (SCI), I head to Haiti today to evaluate and certify solar cooking teacher-trainers working for the Free Methodist Church & International ChildCare Ministries (ICCM). Post-training, I will travel with ICCM representatives to various primary schools in the areas surrounding Port-au-Prince to assess opportunities to incorporate solar cooking into the science curricula throughout Haiti's school system. Look for stories and photos soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010

TanzSolar; Bringing Affordable Solar Lighting to Rural Tanzania

Marianne Walpert and her organization, TanzSolar, are helping to spread solar LED lights in rural Tanzania to enable villagers to read, study and work, eliminating kerosene lanterns and improving health while reducing CO2 emissions.

TanzSolar believes in a world where everyone can afford to live and work in a clean, well-lighted environment using modern technology and renewable power.

Their mission is to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for people throughout Tanzania through the promotion of affordable technology powered by renewable energy, distributed to communities not served by an electricity grid.

Check out TanzSolar's website here.

And also visit their page on Global Giving, where you can learn more about the project, share the information with friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and donate to the very worthwhile venture that TanzSolar has undertaken in one of the most rural areas on the planet.

You can help!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Solar Cooking in Africa - A Remarkable Technology Transfer

A poignant and articulate video by my friend and colleague, Pat McArdle.

I am proud to have been a part of a number of these solar cooking efforts in Africa!

Monday, August 2, 2010

How to Travel Outside your Comfort Zone

Does travel always equal going outside your comfort zone?

Particularly among those of us who travel extensively, there’s a temptation to draw the equivalence. While travel can present opportunities to escape the familiar, to experiment with new behaviors, and to subject yourself to vulnerability and emotional risk, it does not mean that once the backpack is strapped on, you have automatically departed your comfort zone.

We are not referring to Amazing Race-like stunts, or bungee jumping, skydiving or other extreme thrill-seeking travel feats. Instead, we are referring to the comfort zone of the cultural and interpersonal variety and the sorts of uncelebrated travel achievements of human interaction that push mental boundaries. This comfort zone is about overcoming fears of people and cultures different than our own – by doing more than just visiting ruins, churches and temples, mixing it up with the front desk staff of the hostel, and staring out the window of a spiffy tour bus while making grand philosophical projections about the life streaming by outside.

It’s about getting lost – sometimes physically, often times emotionally – and placing yourself in situations whose challenges spit you out on the other side – altered, slightly different, and just possibly a better person.

We’ve met travelers who would like to push themselves beyond the limits of what they know and understand, but they don’t know how to get started. We offer a few ideas on how to begin.

After this, you’re on your own. That’s when the real fun happens.

See the entire article here, on Uncornered Market.

Uncornered Market: Filed Under: Personal Growth, Travel by Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Solar Ovens: Hey, Hey Good Lookin', Whatcha Got Cooking?

Consumers increasingly seek greener energy sources while dreading the costs associated with special roof panels or windmills. Solar ovens represent one of the cheapest and easiest ways to go green. Box cookers, also known as solar ovens, often present no greater investment in time or money than a cardboard box, an old window, aluminum foil and a can of black paint.


In 1767, French-Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure created a solar box cooker that achieved temperatures of almost 190 degree Fahrenheit, according to a history of solar cookers compiled by the University of Vermont. Over the next 200 years, scientists and amateur inventors continued to make innovations on the design. In the 1970s, interest in the solar cookers reignited, especially after solar cooking advocates Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole developed an easily-made version which could be constructed from simple household materials. Today, charitable organizations like Solar Cookers International work with Third World countries to promote solar cooking and to establish the practice in refugee camps and impoverished regions.

Solar Power Systems Find A Professional Solar Energy Installer For Any Type Of System


The simplest solar cookers feature a shallow, medium-sized wooden or cardboard box and a transparent covering. The oven works best if painted black on its exterior, because black best absorbs and retains the sun's rays. A reflective material, such as aluminum foil, lines the inside of the box to capture more sunlight, while the exterior works best if insulated. A box-within-a-box system can provide insulation, especially if you stuff the gap between the two boxes with newspaper. For optimum heat retention, some solar cookers are insulated with non-toxic materials and filled with air pockets, while others use angled reflective flaps to direct more sunlight to the solar oven.

SCI points out that solar ovens preserve nutrients due to the lower cooking temperatures. Food rarely burns or dries out in the solar ovens, because their temperatures don't exceed 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, solar ovens help users conserve electricity, gas, wood or charcoal by forgoing the stove, oven, microwave or grill. SCI considers solar cookers safer than campfire or grills, because they eliminate the danger of structure fires or cooking, as well as the possibility of smoke irritating the eyes or lungs. At their most basic, solar cookers are relatively inexpensive, especially if self-assembled. Because of their low cost and simplicity, third-world countries increasingly utilize the cookers, which can pasteurize water and safely cook food. Finally, during days or months of adequate sunlight, solar cookers can be utilized during power outages.

Read more:

About this Author

Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.Article reviewed by Tad Cronn

Last updated on: 05/27/10

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Simple Solutions to Global Hunger: GRA's Global Awareness Festival in Ojai: July 24th, 2010

Global Resource Alliance (GRA), a small So Cal nonprofit dedicated to bringing sustainable solutions to the Mara region of Tanzania, puts on an awareness festival in Ojai, CA at the end of July, promoting the debut of their upcoming documentary:

To be released in its entirety at the festival at the end of July, From the Mara Soil, is a documentary about simple solutions to global hunger, poverty and disease produced by Steve Schrenzel and Global Resource Alliance. Don't miss the debut screening, live music and delicious vegan tamale dinner on July 24th at Meditation Mount in Ojai, Ca! Event details to come.

I have worked on solar cooking projects with GRA in northern TZ, and have been impressed by the dedication and tenacity of their employees, members and volunteers.

Go to for more information.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Solafrica Gets the World Cup to Africa's Slums With Solar Energy

Swiss-based, non-profit organization, Solafrica, brought the 2010 World Cup to Nairobi's largest slum by donating a portable solar station, and some much-needed technology.

Kibera--Africa's largest slum with a population of a million--is as manic about World Cup Football as the rest of the continent. But without electricity, not to mention television, watching any of the games has been out of the question.

That is, until Solafrica's latest contribution.

Working closely with the Kibera Community Youth Program and Greenpeace, Solafrica donated the solar power station, along with a television set, to bring people together to celebrate sport. A similar set-up was done in Jericho.

The power station is compact, easy to use, with minimal wiring, and is set up in a public hall that can house up to 1,000 people.

Read more of this story here.

By Harry Tournemille on June 22, 2010
Solar Energy:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vote for Pat McArdle's book "Farishta" by 6/2/10 !!

Vote for solar cooking advocate Pat McArdle's new book "Farishta" on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (under General Fiction) by June 2nd.

Pat says:

Amazon and Penguin Books announced on May 25 that my novel Farishta (Dari for 'angel') is one of three finalists out of 5000 entries in the General Fiction category of their annual writing competition.

I need as many votes as possible on the website below before 11:29 pm on June 2 to win a publishing contract for my novel Farishta. It was inspired by the year I spent with a British Army unit in northern Afghanistan. The main character is a mid-career Foreign Service officer, who has never recovered psychologically from the loss of her husband in the ‘83 Beirut embassy bombing. Her career is in free-fall and her last chance at promotion is an assignment to Afghanistan, which she is reluctant to accept.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

'Saving lives' in Kenya with solar-powered lights -

'Saving lives' with solar-powered lights -

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- The villagers' faces light up as Evans Wadongo arrives. Men, women and children sing and gather around as he shows how his invention -- a solar-powered LED lantern -- will soon light up their homes.