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A day in the life of a Solar Ambassador…. by Merritt Eby Gates

February 10th 2014, Kisoro, Uganda

What a beautiful day…

I awake at 6:45 by a diesel generator.  While the fumes pour in my room and the noise drowns out the morning birds, I’m reminded just how wonderful Solar Energy is.

Thunder crashes and rain fills the streets of Kabale, Shannon Fulton sends a funny text, “Room Service Please!” Laura Walters and I pack the AMREF car with tools, panels, batteries, Solar Suitcases and ourselves for a 2 hour drive to Kisoro – a neighboring district and town at the base of a Volcano.  Everything to do with leaving takes just a little bit longer and I keep saying to myself and Laura, “Time is an Illusion!”

I lose myself in the patchwork terrace farmland as we weave up through the hills to the top of the valley.  Cabbage patches and banana groves transform into dense jungle canopy under my daydreaming eyes.  Laura reaches across me, points and yells, “Baboon!” Red butt and all!  I look at the baboon on the side of the road, I look at Laura and I’m speechless except for an extended, “YESSSSS!!!!”

As we leave the jungle, a silhouette of the Volcano shows through the mist and touches the sky; at its base, on the outskirts of Kisoro, hundreds of white UNHCR tents house thousands of refugees in the “Nyakabande Transit Center”.  I’m reminded moment by moment how truly blessed I am.

We pick up the installation team, who the week before had participated in a joint AMREF and We Care Solar 2-day training, and head to Kagano Health Center.  While Laura works inside with Robert, Gideon and Ambrose to install the Suitcase and lights and teach the midwife Fiona how the system works, Eva, Chance and I go on the roof to install the solar panels.  Eva is the first woman in Uganda that I have met that installs solar panels, and boy is she good!  The panels are attached efficiently and quickly; the Suitcase is on the wall in the delivery ward and the clinic staff is explaining the solar electric system to various curious townspeople.


We say goodbye and pile in the car.  Although we started hours late for circumstances out of our control, the sun is still high in the sky as we drive towards the base of the Volcano for the night.  I strum away on the Ukulele as Chance provides the words.  Time proves to be just an illusion.

What a beautiful day…



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