Lighting The Way
BRCC Group To Take Solar Lights To Haitian Village
Posted: January 4, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Those who have grown up with electricity don’t truly understand what it’s like to be without it, says Rebecca Evans, an associate professor of accounting and business at Blue Ridge Community College.
So, although solar lights may not seem to be a pressing need for a Third World country like Haiti, supplying the people who live there with them can make major changes in productivity, income and environment, she said.
That’s why when Evans and BRCC’s Enactus team, which she advises, visit the impoverished Caribbean nation at the end of January, they will deliver 600 solar lights to the town of Mon L’opital.
“We take electricity for granted; we’re just used to it,” she said. “Those people, you give them a light and you’ve just changed their entire life. It is an amazing thing to see somebody stand by their light with the biggest smile because they’re just so proud of it.”
The Enactus team, formerly known as SIFE, focuses on community outreach and service. The team has served in Haiti for several years, completing projects that have included setting up rabbit and goat cooperatives, planting gardens and lending locals money to start businesses.
Members of the club were in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck, devastating much of the island nation and killing tens of thousands of people.
January marks one year since Enactus began aiding Mon L’opital, where the group has set up a general store. The lights project and another to provide charcoal to residents are the club’s two newest undertakings in the village.
Families in Haiti spend $1.25 on average on kerosene each week to light their homes, if they can afford it. According to a 2010 USA Today report, Haiti’s per capita annual income was $790.
The Enactus club plans to give six entrepreneurs 100 lights each to rent out for 5 cents per day. Residents will be able to save on lighting expenses and the endeavor is expected to create jobs, Evans said.
The cost of the lights was just more than $7,000, which the club raised through fundraisers and a generous donation from the late Richard Davis of Harrisonburg, who assisted the group with its work in Haiti. The lights project is named in honor of Davis, who died at the end of November.
Enactus also makes money working at the BRCC Enactus Coffee Corner, which is located on the Weyers Cave campus and run by club members. The coffee shop makes about $60,000 each year for the team to use on service trips and projects.
According to Evans, the solar lights also will help residents avoid the health risks associated with using kerosene, which can cause fires and is considered a carcinogen.
It also will keep Haitians productive even after the sun goes down.
“When it gets dark there, it gets pitch-black,” she said. “If they don’t have the money for kerosene, once it gets dark their day ends.”
When the group delivers the lights, it also will see through a project that helps create charcoal for use in homes.
Haitians often cut down trees to burn as fuel, contributing to deforestation on the island, Evans said. But two biomass machines that turn leaves, trash, manure and other debris into charcoal briquettes will lead to a more sustainable environment, she said.
“There’s just such a connection to Haiti in our community; there are so many organizations working [there],” Evans said. “It’s just amazing the change that the Valley is making.”
Want To Help?
To make a donation to the Blue Ridge Community College Enactus team’s efforts in Haiti, contact adviser Rebecca Evans at 453-2366 or email@example.com.
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or firstname.lastname@example.org