Our SunGate Solar Project Seeks Volunteers

Friends: we are developing an Android app to support our solar entrepreneurs in managing customers and payments for our rural solar electrification project. We are looking for a couple of volunteers to help with (1) writing the user guide for the app and (2) testing the app. If you are experienced in either or both of these areas, please contact us.

Our big solar year in South Sudan

Mou Riiny presenting at IEEE's 2014 GHTC conferenceMou Riiny at a solar charging station in South Sudan

Mou Riiny, who leads our solar energy initiative, is pictured above. On the left he presents an update at the Global Humanitarian Technology Conference in San Jose, California, last month. The picture on the right shows Mou sitting with an energy entrepreneur operator recently at the site of one of our solar energy charging stations in a village marketplace in South Sudan. These are the two “worlds” Mou has lived in for much of his life – the last 2 years as our Manager of sustainable energy services for rural South Sudan. Our rural energy solutions give a humanitarian jump-start for solar energy installations and make the clean energy sustainable by training local community technicians and energy business operators who sell the electricity to rural customers at locally-affordable prices. Customers light their homes and power small electric devices such as cell phones with portable battery kits (PBKs) which they lease from the operator for a small monthly fee. They return to the charging station whenever the PBK needs to be recharged. Merchants and others in the marketplace bring their cell phones to the charging station to be recharged – here with clean solar energy rather than the typical diesel generators that pollute the marketplaces in South Sudan. Here are a few more pictures of the solar energy business in Akuem – near Aweil in South Sudan. Akuem solar energy station Customer PBKs being charged in Akuem Solar energy entrepreneur in Akuem Customers waiting for their PBKs Installing solar panel array

Our one million goal We have made a small but important dent in our aim to help bring lighting to one million people in South Sudan. We now have eight operating stations across three states. To date about 700 households have received electricity through our PBKs from eight stations, including one station that supports our community center and one that supports a primary school in the area. With an average of 7 people per household, we have now affected the lives of 4,900 people.

Jobs Created One of our core principles is that our solutions should be sustainable locally Solar technical teamand raise the standard of living for the rural villagers of South Sudan. This begins with empowering the locals with the skills to do their own work. For our solar initiative, we have now trained technicians, business managers, and energy station operators. The number of jobs created by this project now stands at eleven and will soon grow to eighteen when this project is complete. These locals have already earned more than $15,500 since the project started two years ago. Solar entrepreneur Akueny

Business Operation One operator, Akueny Luol says from Warawar, “I like this work. Solar batteries (PBKs) help the local people. They do not need to come to the town to charge their phones. Light is saving lives. People can see anything on the ground at night including poison snakes. People who have received PBKs in Warawar are very happy, but there are many more people who need them…No single problem has come up since my Center was opened. Every month I will collect the fees from our customers… People were trained when they received PBKs including who will be in charge of a unit at home. I would like to have more training with electricity to help me do my job better… We need more centers to be opened because we have many more people who want to receive electricity.”

Inside a solar charging station

Future Plans for Expanding the Initiative Based on the success of our rural solar electrification pilot, our future plans to expand the project include:

  • Broaden the PBK solution to meet demand, cover a larger territory, and light more homes
  • Pilot test a configuration that includes a solar panel in a stand-alone solar energy system sized for rural homes
  • Pilot a large solar setup for offices and homes in a more urban area
  • Pilot retail sales of solar lanterns for small area lighting and night-time reading
  • Continue and expand our technical and business training

Adult learning center

Help us light up rural South Sudan!

Your tax-deductible contribution will help brighten the homes, schools, and futures of South Sudanese families living in energy poverty and the enormous obstacles they endure.

Thank you!

 

Wunlang PHCC news

Yel delivers suppliesYel Maduok, our Wunlang area Field Manager, has been busy for several weeks overseeing the initial operations at the Wunlang Primary Health Care Center (PHCC). Here he helps deliver medical supplies to the clinic.

Bicycle deliveryOthers in the village deliver supplies by bicycle.

Our grant to the Wunlang PHCC has enabled the local team to acquire vital medicines and supplies. The building also got a fresh coat of paint – inside and out. Although the clinic was constructed over a year ago, operations were delayed until this summer when health workers in the area completed their training, and began running the clinic.

Medical suppliesThe building has 6 rooms. Here one of the rooms is used to store the newly acquired supplies.

Making bedsWe are hoping to raise the funds needed to provide the furniture and equipment this village health center needs to be fully operational. In the meantime. beds for overnight care are made with locally available materials.

Making beds

A home electricity business is born

Solar PanelsEarlier this year we completed two solar energy installations. One is a large 6kW system at Thiou School, and the other is a 1.5kW installation at our multipurpose community center.

Interior componentsThese energy solutions provide power for the facilities where they are installed, but they are also the base charging stations for our rural home electricity business. Proceeds from the business will help offset operations costs to maintain and run the facilities.

Portable battery kitThe energy business is a pay-as-you-go model run by local operators we train. Customers in the area lease portable battery kits (PBKs) from the operators. The kits include a rechargeable battery (12V, 18 amp-hour, deep cycle battery) and LED lights for their home. The PBKs also have built-in outlets for charging cell phones and other small electronic devices.

Charging the PBKsThe PBKs for the business arrived this week, and Mou Riiny has been busy with the 2 operators getting the batteries charged up and distributed to the initial customers.

Reading the agreementEach customer agrees to the conditions for leasing their PBK. Here one of the customers, a doctor from a nearby clinic, reads the agreement which specifies the amount he must pay each month to continue using the PBK.

Signing the customer agreementThe customer signs the agreement before getting his PBK. Customers who cannot read or write are assisted by other family members. In rural South Sudan children who are in school will frequently use their literacy skills to assist their parents and other adults in the community who are illiterate.

Customer getting his PBKThe PBK is small and portable, but very effective for the small amounts of electricity needed in rural homes in this area. The kit has internal electronics that prevent the battery from over-discharging, thus enabling a single battery to be recharged many times and to last up to 5 years.

Customer getting her LED lightsEach PBK comes with 3 LED lights for home use. This customer takes her LEDs to light her home and to help run a small home business at night.

Multipurpose center customersEach of our solar installations can support at least 80 PBK customers. For this initial pilot, however, each station has 25 customers.

Thiou School customersOur operators have been busy for the past several weeks learning about the business model, explaining the solution to others in the community, and finding their initial customers. Each operator has a waiting list of future customers beyond our current maximum. After piloting the solution with the first 50 customers, we hope to expand with more PBKs for the two solar installations and to install more solar generating stations to deliver the solution to other parts of rural South Sudan.

Wunlang School going strong

Wunlang volleyballThis picture tells a story – in a sense the best story imaginable – for Wunlang School. The village of Wunlang is so remote and rural that few vehicles make it there, and the footpath-become-road is impassable during the seasonal rains. People live in traditional shelters called “tukuls” made from local materials. Until our grant support enabled the village to construct its primary school for boys and girls, no brick and mortar structure was there. Now Wunlang School students play volleyball in the school yard, and the school building happily co-exists with the surrounding village homes.

Teacher with school booksClassrooms have also changed dramatically from the makeshift spaces in the shadow of trees the village called their school before they built Wunlang School several years ago. Village Help for South Sudan has provided additional grants to the school since it opened in 2008 – for routine maintenance, school supplies, and uniforms. Wunlang elders and citizens have become strong advocates for their needs through other channels as well. One example: this teacher displays the books donated to the school by UKAID in their massive program for South Sudan’s schools earlier this year.

Students outside Wunlang SchoolWunlang School is well-constructed. The local builder, the village laborers, and the young man who became our Field Manager – they all did an outstanding job building this school. It needs a fresh coat of paint, however, and more uniforms are needed. Your donations will help us continue supporting Wunlang village and their school.

Our village peanut business has begun

Path to community center

Villagers in an around our multi-purpose community center in Rhumathoi know just about everything about peanuts – or ground nuts, as they are called locally. They even know about crop rotation to control disease and increase yields. As a food staple in South Sudan, local peanut farming makes good business sense as well as a strategy to mitigate seasonal hunger. All the poor people of Rhumathoi needed was a small amount of start-up capital to buy the tools and seeds to get their business going.

Peanut farmland

In yet another promising partnership between Village Help for South Sudan and local entrepreneurs and laborers, the Rhumathoi community center’s peanut business is now underway. The land shown here is generously donated to the Center for this year’s peanut farm. The exact size of the farm is hard to estimate, but the community elders and administrators are committed to giving as much land as needed to support this local business.

Shelled peanut seeds

Our contribution to the farm was a grant to purchase the tools needed to prepare the farmland and enough seeds to plant one acre. The woman seen here has just helped prepare the seeds for planting. Peanuts acquired locally – whether for seed or for meal consumption – need to be shelled by hand. The peanut shells are hard, and the shelling process is long and painful to produce enough seeds for a community farm.

Retail space

The one-acre peanut farm is expected to produce around 3,000 pounds of peanuts at harvest time. The community will sell their harvest in a shop in the local marketplace. This picture shows the plot that will be developed into the shop for the community center’s retail sales, featuring peanuts and other outputs from the Center’s programs.

Got Android? Try One Today by Google

As a Google non-profit grant recipient, we are happy to participate in their One Today program. If you have an Android phone, please download the One Today app, and then donate to one or more of our projects featured – once a day or as often as you like. You really can “Do a little, change a lot!”

School support

Help us run this school!

Women's Literacy

Help support women’s literacy!

Birth attendants

Help delivering moms and their babies!

Clean water

Help bring clean water to our villages!

Mou Riiny to present at IEEE’s GHTC

Mou Riiny

Mou Riiny, our Project Manager and Electrical Engineer, will present “South Sudan Rural Electrification Project” at IEEE’s 2013 Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) in San Jose, California, in October. Mou’s presentation will be an informal overview of his solar electricity project and early results from the field pilot test sites. Here is a link to his abstract.

The mission of Village Help for South Sudan is to support South Sudanese rural villagers in a variety of ways, and we devote nearly 100% of our budgets to enable local village groups to do their own development work. We enable villagers and former refugees like Mou to undertake projects and start businesses to employ South Sudanese to deliver goods and services needed by the local communities.

Mou’s start-up enterprise, SunGate Solar, provides poor villagers with electricity they can afford. As SunGate scales over the next few years, many rural South Sudanese will be the direct beneficiaries of the electricity delivered as well as the training and jobs created to grow and sustain the business.

IEEE is an important partner for SunGate Solar and our rural electrification program in South Sudan. Our pilot project tests an innovative model developed by their Community Solutions Initiative and initially deployed in Haiti. Attending the GHTC will be mutually beneficial as Mou learns about other science, engineering and technology solutions for disadvantaged communities and represents the needs and realities of deploying sustainable solutions in South Sudan.

Wunlang Clinic – April 2013 Report

ContainerWithMosquitoNets-sm

As soon as the villagers of Wunlang built their school and clinic – with grant and management support from Village Help for South Sudan – the facilities have been used steadily for local operations as well as other groups and organizations that need a central, secure location for their programs. We were not surprised, therefore, but indeed delighted to hear this week that the clinic is now the base of operations for an organization distributing mosquito nets to the village of Wunlang and the vast remote area around it. All 12 “bomas” (villages) in Wunlang Payam (county sub-division), will reduce their malaria rates by using mosquito nets distributed from Wunlang Clinic!

ContainersWithMosquitoNets-sm

Although Wunlang is a remote rural village in South Sudan, it is at the center of a vast area of long-time residents as well as thousands of returnees – people who fled their homes many years ago to escape the war who are now returning to take up residence once again in their homeland now mostly at peace as an independent country.

PHCCReport-formatted

Statistics showing illnesses people are suffering from that bring them to a clinic are sad, but we are grateful that our grant support has enabled the clinic to provide the treatments for the month of April shown in this report to the Ministry of Health.

See more pictures from the Wunlang Clinic here..

We Celebrate Earth Day with Clean Energy in Rural South Sudan

Solar-ExteriorAtNight5

To anyone here in the U. S. where electricity is common, it is not unusual to see lights emitting from windows at night. In rural South Sudan, however, electricity is almost non-existent, so these lights coming from our multi-purpose community center in the village of Rhumathoi, Wunlang Payam, are the cause of much excitement for all of us at Village Help for South Sudan. We celebrate Earth Day 2013 with clean energy and the benefits this brings to Rhumathoi – and the environment!

Solar Panels

With support from IEEE’s Community Solutions Initiative, the solar electric generating system at the center is now complete. This project not only provides lighting for the facility, but the system will be run as a small business by a community-elected energy entrepreneur who will sell electricity to rural homes at prices the local residents can afford. Proceeds pay the entrepreneur’s income as well as operations costs at the multi-purpose community center. Mou Riiny, our electrical engineer, and his team completed a market survey several months ago to determine the price rural customers can pay for electricity.

Interior ComponentsInterior Components

PBK

Residential electricity is provided in the form of take-home rechargeable battery packs and lighting kits (PBKs). The initial pilot will test a PBK from BBOXX which has similar operations in other countries in Africa. IEEE-CSI has developed an open-source design for another PBK (pictured here), however, and our goal is to set up an assembly plant in South Sudan to produce these units locally.

PBK

Our solar business pilot aims to help Mou Riiny establish his for-profit social enterprise to be called SunGate Solar. SunGate will be owned and operated by Mou, and will provide jobs and opportunity to many of his fellow South Sudanese citizens. Mou’s initial solar project is now operating in the village of Thiou at our primary school for that area.

*Social enterprises are businesses that:

  1. Use the marketplace to solve pressing social problems.
  2. Have a primary purpose to do social good.
  3. Serve the common good, making money while solving social problems.
  4. Are values-led and committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
  5. Use the power of business for positive social change.
  6. Believe the bottom line and social change can be hardwired together.
  7. Develop and sell products or services that address social or environmental issues.
  8. Are values-centered, transparent, and in business for the benefit of all stakeholders.
  9. Are dedicated to making a sustained, positive impact on social and environmental change.
  10. Believe what is good for the world is good for business.

*Source: npEnterprise Forum edited by Rolfe Larson

See more pictures from the solar installation at the Rhumathoi community center here.