Volunteers bring light to rural Kenyan schools

The flip of a switch brings light to offices, homes, and classrooms in an instant. However, that's not the case in many areas of the world, and a little electricity goes a long way when you are otherwise dependent on kerosene to light the night.

Nine rural schools in the Enoosean village of the Kilgoris region of Kenya will receive the gift of light for their classrooms, thanks to the efforts of local student volunteers, Wells Fargo volunteers in Toronto, and the We Share Solar program.

We Care Solar® is a nonprofit that provides solar energy systems to power medical lighting, mobile communication, and medical devices for health facilities in areas without reliable electricity. We Share Solar is the nonprofit's education program that trains middle school, high school, and college educators to teach their students how to build We Share Solar Suitcases — stand-alone solar systems that help power schools and community centers in energy-poor regions of the world.

Wells Fargo volunteers and students teamed up to build 15 portable, robust solar lighting systems, all contained in a convenient "suitcase." The suitcase uses a solar panel to harness energy from the sun and then converts it into electricity to charge the battery and power light bulbs.

"Working together with the sixth and seventh grade students was very fun," said Sophia Khamush, Wholesale relationship associate. "They were eager to test their suitcases to see if the light bulb would turn on, and to reach completion before their other classmates. It was heartwarming to see them sign their names on the suitcases when we finished and to read the notes they wrote to the students they were helping."

Students and volunteers worked in groups of five, with volunteers from the We Share Solar program guiding them through the building instructions. It took approximately four hours to build, commission, and energize the solar suitcases.

"I believe that by working with the bright minds of the future you can truly see their development, which is a very inspiring aspect of growth," said Jamie Berger, Wells Fargo documentation specialist. "It was also extremely rewarding to know that we were helping children across the world with a device that provides energy."

The We Share Solar program also provides the opportunity for students to enhance their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills while benefiting communities in need. "A lot of teachers don't have resources to teach in a hands-on way like this," said Wendy Cross, program director for We Share Solar. "To be able to provide that — because of Wells Fargo — is so meaningful."