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Princeton Day School Students Empower Distant Classrooms

Student builders James Wellemeyer and Annika Goldman with Solar Ambassador Linda Gaffney and En Classe Founder Sylvia van den Brink. Behind are Louise Wellemeyer, Chair of PDS Science Dept Silvia Di Benedetti, and Gigi Goldman

Labor Day Weekend took on a special meaning for three Princeton Day School Students and their mentors this year, when they worked to assemble two We Share Solar Suitcases destined for the DR Congo.  The goal was to bring light to schoolrooms on the other side of the globe, in partnership with a Dutch foundation called En Classe. En Classe renovates and improves public schools, building a brighter future for thousands of Congolese youth. The organization was established by Sylvia van den Brink  in 2007 while she was living in Kinshasha. Working closely with the Congolese schools, local contractors and workmen, En Classe utilizes local materials to upgrade schools, creating safe and healthy learning environments.  10 En Classe schools accommodate nearly 9,000 children and 350 teachers everyday!   Yet the off-grid facilities are without electricity.

Annika Goldman, James Wellemeyer and Douglas Wellemeyer testing the lights on their newly assembled Solar Suitcase

To light up Congolese classrooms, two We Share Solar Suitcases were built by Princeton Day School students, James Wellemeyer, Annika Goldman and Douglas Wellemeyer. We Share Solar is the educational program of We Care Solar.The program empowers students to learn about solar electricity, build solar suitcases, and share the technology with impoverished schools and orphanages. The hands-on assembly of Solar Suitcases can be fun, challenging and deeply meaningful to students.

“It wasn’t difficult but you really had to focus when it came time to wire the main board correctly” said Annika Goldman.  “It was amazing when we turned the system on and everything worked, including four lights and the cell phone charger” said James Wellemeyer. “It’s hard to believe that sunshine can be turned into power,” said Douglas Wellemeyer “I loved building it and I am really happy that kids in the Congo can use it now in school.”

Sylvia van den Brink with the Solar Suitcases she is bringing to Kinshasha school rooms.

We Care Solar Ambassador Linda Gaffney worked with the students to commission the Solar Suitcase system and used the solar power to have them play with a solar-powered water fountain.Two weeks later,  Linda trained Sylvia van den Brink on the use and maintenance of the Solar Suitcases in preparation for Sylvia’s departure to Kinsasha. Sylvia will be bringing these devices to En Classe schoolrooms and then following their impact. The DR Congo is still one of the poorest countries in the world and many regions have no access to electricity. With the new lights of the We Share Solar Suitcases, Sylvia anticipates her schools will provide evening classes, teacher workshops, student study periods and adult education in two classrooms. If her project goes well, We Share Solar will be sending more Solar Suitcases to En Classe schools in the future.



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