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Annual Report 2019

Photo: Frank Kimaro

Annual Report 2019

Letter from the Executive Director

In 2019, 840 million people did not have access to electricity.

What does it mean to be without electricity? It means working by the glow of a candle, the dim light of a kerosene lantern, or the beam of a flashlight.

We founded We Care Solar in 2010 to provide the first 100 watts of electricity to energy deficient health centers. What started as a backyard project blossomed into an international movement to empower health centers, and eventually schools, around the world.

In 2019, we celebrated the first major success of Light Every Birth. Now, every public maternal health center in Liberia has reliable light and power for safe childbirth! We re-designed the Solar Suitcase and immediately received international acclaim. We opened a Regional Center in Uganda and added staff in three countries. Our education program, We Share Solar, engaged 22,750 students in 120 schools, and improved conditions for energy-poor classrooms in Kenya, Uganda, and Haiti, as well as Native American reservations, and school-based emergency preparedness programs.

Please enjoy our 2019 Interactive Annual Report, and thank you for joining our efforts to transform health care and education by the light of the sun.

With gratitude,


Laura Stachel, MD MPH
Executive Director and Co-Founder

Our Reach to Date



5,209 health centers equipped with Solar Suitcases
59 organizational partners
686 technicians trained in installation and maintenance
20,836 health workers were trained in equipment use
5.6 million mothers and babies served


2,227 Solar Suitcases assembled
803 Solar Suitcase deployed to energy-poor schools and centers
14,631 students educated
✔ 425,100 students, educators, and volunteers impacted

In 2019, We Share Solar conducted education programs in California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, as well as a program in Ontario, Canada.

Light Every Birth

Light Every Birth is our international initiative calling for the electrification of every health facility to save lives in childbirth. We are working with an ecosystem of government, health, and technical partners to eradicate energy poverty in frontline health centers, one country at a time.

Our coalition of partners are united by three fundamental beliefs:

  1. Every mother has the right to safe childbirth.

  2. Every health facility is entitled to reliable electricity.

  3. Solar electricity offers an immediate and sustainable solution to this global problem.

Photo: Liz Hale

Building Sustainability

As important as it is for health centers to receive clean energy for safe childbirth, installing Solar Suitcases is only part of the equation. Equally important is building capacity to ensure that our equipment lasts for years. We train local technicians to maintain and service Solar Suitcases, supported by our Certified Solar Suitcase installers.

Photo: Liz Hale

Light Every Birth: Liberia

In 2019, we celebrated the completion of our national program in Liberia. We reached 445 health facilities, proving that it is feasible and possible to “Light Every Birth” throughout an entire country.

We are working with the government to develop a country-wide sustainability plan, training health workers to operate our technology, building a robust supply chain of spare parts, and ensuring that every Solar Suitcase can be maintained and repaired in a timely manner.

Strengthening Healthcare

Midwives are essential in the battle to reduce maternal and newborn mortality, providing a range of services in community-based health centers. Their struggle to provide life-saving care in un-electrified health facilities motivates our work.

A Midwife's Story: Meet Violet

For years, Violet Chapwe struggled to deliver babies using torchlights that would last only as long as their batteries. The Solar Suitcase in her health facility was installed in 2012. 

“It’s tiresome and scary to deliver in the dark,” Violet tells us. “Sometimes during deliveries the mother gets tears, you have to have enough light. But when you are in the dark, you have to struggle to repair that woman and you end up doing it wrong. There was a baby that needed a resuscitation and without light, we ended up losing that baby…when we have light, you end up doing everything nicely.”

In this video, Violet describes her experiences before and after using the Solar Suitcase.

Promoting Leadership

In 2019, we added staff in four countries: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. We opened our first regional center in Kampala to oversee all of our Africa programs, strengthen partnerships with government agencies and local NGOs, and coordinate Solar Suitcase installation and training.

Photo: Giovanni Okot

A Regional Director’s Mission: Meet Ambrose

Dr. Ambrose Katungi Muhwezi, our first Africa Regional Director, was raised in a community that relied on kerosene lanterns at night. As a physician, Ambrose worked as a medical officer in Northern Uganda, where frequent power outages meant the health facility was plunged into darkness, forcing him to complete Cesarean sections by torchlight (flashlight). “Batteries would go dim, sometimes they wouldn’t work at all. The whole room was dark except for that spotlight. Many babies would die.”

Ambrose eventually became a Subdistrict Medical Officer in Western Uganda and later the Technical Advisor for Doctors with Africa CUAMM. He had firsthand experience working in hospitals without electricity. Ambrose is eager to improve healthcare with Solar Suitcases, reminding us, “You cannot treat what you cannot see.”

Creating Livelihoods

Through our Certified Training Program, we are providing employment for dozens of solar installers in our Light Every Birth countries. They gain new skills through our programs, and are motivated to improve health outcomes in their own country.

An Inspired Solar Installer: Meet Andrew

Growing up in a small hut without electricity, Andrew never imagined that one day he’d be lighting up his country. After seven years and 400 installations, he marvels at the impact of the Solar Suitcase.

“I go to health centers that are completely in darkness. The midwives are demoralized; they are not able to help mothers as they should. Mothers sometimes deliver at home; there is no difference between  giving birth in darkness at the facility or giving birth at home. Andrews knows that his work has been impactful.

I am relevant to the country, to our people and to each person that is saved and that could have died without that light. I’m part of the team that has installed it and it’s a blessing. I feel like I have a purpose in life.”

Supporting Families

With your support, we are uplifting communities, one family at a time. When a mother survives childbirth, her infant is more likely to survive the first year of life. Her young children are more likely to be well nourished and attend school. She can remain productive and contribute to the social, emotional, and financial health of her family and community.

A Mother’s Miracle: Meet Jane

This Ugandan baby was born by the light of a Solar Suitcase. His mother, Jane’s first birth took place in a health facility without reliable power.

“There was no light. They had to get their lamps, but to buy the paraffin it was far away. I felt bad because the lights were off.” She prayed for the health of her baby and watched as her midwife struggled to suture in the dark.

When Jane became pregnant with her second baby, she selected a health center with solar power. Her baby was born at night under the bright light of a Solar Suitcase. “The lights were on and I felt very good.” Seeing she had a healthy baby boy, she named him Miracle.

Photo: Laura Stachel

Read the full version of our 2019 Annual Report.

“The hardest part of my job is working alone at night with no light. With no light in the facility, patients don’t even want to come here. They would rather visit others who may not even be health workers. Now that we have this solar source of light, the women in our community want to come here.”
—Community Health Extension Worker, Nigeria

Increasing Community Access

Prolonged drought in Zimbabwe depleted the country’s supply of hydroelectricity and most rural health centers are without reliable power. Rather than working in darkness, health workers advise their patients to pack candles for nighttime deliveries. After engaging in our Solar Suitcase training, installation partners—ZimEnergy EcoFoundation, Eletech, and Engineering World installed 219 Solar Suitcases, making deliveries safer for 90,000 mothers and babies annually.

In Sierra Leone, we expanded our programming with Doctors with Africa CUAMM. Solar Suitcases were installed at 100 health facilities, benefiting 28,800 mothers and newborns.

Pathfinder International installed Solar Suitcases in 85 Nigerian health facilities in Gombe and Niger states, resulting in a 166% increase in facility-based deliveries. Mothers appreciated the security of reliable lighting and the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat using the Doppler.

In Ethiopia, our partners at Hamlin College of Midwives, Greenlamp and Pathfinder Ethiopia received 173 Solar Suitcases to provide light and power for enhanced maternal-newborn care.

Reaching the Last Mile

We reach last mile health centers in Africa and beyond..

Despite the difficult terrain in Nepal, our partners at One Heart Worldwide and SunFarmer installed 149 Solar Suitcases and trained 280 health Workers in 2019, providing essential electricity in remote areas where access to power is limited or unavailable.


Meet the newest member of the We Care Solar family. Version 3 features advanced electronics, a lithium battery with greater storage capacity, a friendlier interface making it easier for health care workers to use, customized dimmable lights, dedicated USB ports and 12VDC outlets to charge a range of other devices, and mesh pockets to store the LED headlamps, phone charger, fetal Doppler, and AA battery charger included in every suitcase. We updated the features on the outside of the Solar Suitcase to streamline the installation process.

The Solar Suitcase is the only off-grid system developed specifically to provide electricity to remote maternal health centers, and is designed to be safe, easy-to-install, and easy-to-use. This new design was the result of years of field testing and engineering. Our partners are not the only ones who love our newest suitcase. We received the Zayed Sustainability Prize, the Gold Award from Edison Innovation, and we were featured by TIME Magazine as one of the Best Innovations of 2019.

Inspiring U.S. Students

We Share Solar education programs give young people the power to light the world by learning about solar energy, engineering and global energy issues. They build innovative Solar Suitcases and connect with peers around the world in a meaningful way.

Photo: Katie G. Nelson

We Share Solar Education

The We Share Solar U.S. programs teach middle and high school students about solar technology, engineering and global energy issues. Students build bright blue We Share Solar Suitcases: stand-alone renewable energy systems that can light a room and charge mobile phones, laptops, e-readers and headlamps. U.S. students share the results of their efforts with peers in energy-scare regions by sending completed Solar Suitcases to schools and community centers, improving opportunities for children around the world.

In 2019, we trained 50 new teachers in in the United States and East Africa allowing us to lead programs at more than 120 schools, reaching 22,750 students with engaging, hands-on curriculum. Our corporate and community events gave 168 volunteers the opportunity to light up lives through global service. 173 Solar Suitcases were deployed to energy-poor schools and refugee camps in Haiti, Kenya, and Uganda, reaching 60,000 people. In the United States, Solar Suitcases were delivered to homeless shelters and Native American reservations, and supported school-based emergency preparedness programs.

Improving STEM Engagement

Women and people of color are consistently underrepresented in STEM fields. We Share Solar programs have a particular focus on reaching girls and youth from marginalized communities.

Photo: Alli Pemerl

Creating Impact

We Share Solar was a partner in the Lawrence Hall of Science EPICC (Educational Pathways into College and Career) Summer Program targeted high school students from Oakland, California at risk of failing a math or science course. Students engaged in hands-on learning by building Solar Suitcases for communities in need. An EPICC research paper concluded that students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields strongly engaged with our service-learning activities and showed improvements in measures of “Science Fascination,” “Science Values,” and “STEM Career Affinity.”

A second study of 300 middle school students in Minneapolis, documented increases in knowledge acquisition, “STEM Fascination” and “STEM Attitudes.” Girls had a significant increase in knowledge acquisition and all students saw how solar electricity could be used to help combat climate change.

Robust Partnerships

We Care Solar teamed with three other organizations led by women to create a unique educational experience for girls.

Photo: Katie G. Nelson

Girl Power!

In a region where many girls are unable to complete secondary school and cultural norms often prevent women from entering STEM fields, We Share Solar teamed up with WISEe Cooperative Society (Women in Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship), Remote Energy, and the WISER Girls School to launch a full STEM education program in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. The program extended productive classroom time for 11 energy-deficient schools, impacting more than 6,000 students. Female technicians from WISEe led the solar installations, providing wonderful role models for the students.

Students from WISER Girls School learned about solar electricity through a hands-on Solar Suitcase build-session with women trainers and technicians. By extending productive classroom time and enabling students to study for critical national exams that determine eligibility for higher education, the addition of solar powered lights can be life-changing.

To further encourage participation of women in the renewable energy sector, Solar Suitcase installations in the rural schools were led by an all-female team of technicians from WISEe, providing wonderful role models for the students.

Photo: Brian Inganga

Lighting Refugee Education

Located in Kenya, Kakuma Refugee Camp is one of the world’s largest refugee settlements—home to over 180,000 East Africans, of whom nearly half are children. The camp has no power grid.

We Share Solar launched a new program in Minneapolis, connecting U.S. students with their Kenyan counterparts in Kakuma, attended by guest Muzabel Welongo—founder of refugee-led Resilience Action International.

Educators from eleven Minneapolis programs attended the event before initiating the We Share Solar STEM curriculum with their own students in support of Kakuma youth. Solar Suitcases were assembled for energy-poor Kakuma schools, where class sizes average 200 students. With our solar lights, students can now study safely at night in a secure, well-lit environment.

Cross-Cultural Connection

We Share Solar service-learning projects bring Minnesota students into contact with their Kenyan counterparts.

Read the full version of our 2019 Annual Report.

We Care Solar Recognition


Clean Energy for Healthcare Conference, UN Foundation, Nairobi


Women Leaders in Clean Energy, Science, and Technology, Istanbul


Zayed Sustainability Award Abu Dhabi


Gold Edison Award for Innovation New York


‘Solar Family’ International Development Award, Solar Energy International


Global Social Benefit Incubator and Tech Museum, San Jose, California


eChievement Award, Boulder, Colorado


Savvy Awards, Germany


TIME Best Inventions of 2019






Deepening Partnerships

Collaboration is in our DNA. Our programs rely on rich partnerships with governments, UN agencies and NGOs

Photo: Stage Media

We Care Solar Partners

All in Trade Ltd. (Uganda
AVSI Foundation (Uganda)
Brick by Brick (Uganda)
Doctors with Africa CUAMM (Sierra
Leone, Uganda)
Ekide Investments Ltd. (Uganda) Eletech Investments (Zimbabwe) Energising Development (Liberia) Engineering World (Zimbabwe)
Feni Certified Installation Team
Hamlin College of Midwives (Ethiopia) Healthy Child Uganda (Uganda) IntraHealth International (Uganda) One Heart Worldwide (Nepal) Pathfinder International
(Ethiopia, Nigeria)
SunFarmer (Nepal)
ZimEnergy Eco Foundation (Zimbabwe)
Government Partners
Ministry of Energy, Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Child Care,
Republic of Zimbabwe
Ministry of Health and Sanitation,
Sierra Leone
Ministry of Health and Social Welfare,
Republic of Liberia
Ministry of Health, Republic of Uganda.

We Share Solar Partners

United States
American Indian Science
& Engineering Society
Boys & Girls Club of Twin Cities California State University
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Creation Technologies
Expanding Lives
Minnesota Independent Schools Forum Remote Energy
Rutgers University
Trees, Water & People

Brick by Brick (Uganda)
Change Mtaani (Kenya)
Kabale University (Uganda)
Kabale We Share Solar Community Team
Resilience Action International (Kenya) SEGA Girls School / Nurturing Minds
Solar Electric Light Fund (Haiti) WISEe—Women in Sustainable Energy
& Entrepreneurship (Kenya) WISER International (Kenya)

Thank You

We are grateful for the generous support of all our donors, including the following institutions and individuals who have contributed $5,000 or more:

Principal Benefactors

Anonymous Foundation
Child Relief International Foundation
Gilead Foundation
The Meadow Fund
Pathfinder International
Starr International Foundation
UBS Optimus Foundation
Wells Fargo Foundation
Zayed Future Energy Prize

Lead Funders

Arrow Electronics
Cold Mountain Fund of RSF Social Finance Global Health Foundation
Greater Houston Community Foundation GreenLamp
Jim and MA Rogers
Montei Foundation
Ocorian Trustees
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Segal Family Foundation

Key Supporters

Cal State University East Bay
Edgewater Foundation
Gigi and Jim Goldman
Xcel Energy


Ascenzio Family Foundation 
Boys and Girls Club of Carson
Chen-y (Janny) Chen
Clif Bar Family Foundation
Communities Foundation of Texas
Every Mother Counts
James and Sharon Maida Foundation Minnesota Timberwolves Fastbreak Foundation Mission Community College
MPH Fund of the Hawai’i Community Foundation Music for Relief Foundation
Nina Richardson & Doug Condon
Oakmere Foundation
Project Bo
Trees, Water & People

Photo: Laura Stachel

Read the full version of our 2019 Annual Report.

By developing robust technologies and building an ecosystem of support, we are creating programs to meet Sustainable Development Goals for poverty alleviation, health care, education, clean energy, gender equity, and climate action.

Contact us:
We Care Solar
2150 Allston Way, Suite 340
Berkeley, CA 94704

+1(510) 766-0206

Photo: Aude Guerrucci