I’m unable to upload pictures of Haiti from my hotel, but I wish I could share some of the scenes we encounter. Clusters of neatly uniformed school children heading to school with a back drop of rubble and destruction, public parks completely obliterated by a sea of blue tents, street vendors and “tap-taps,” the public buses decorated with colorful pictures and messages, and outdoor hospitals with lines of patients hoping to be seen.
Today we got to deliver one of our solar suitcases to a clinic in Carre Four, a district of Port-au-Prince. The lead doctor and his wife escorted us through the well kept clinic where they see 300 – 500 patients a month. Thought they provide care 24 hours a day, the electricity from the city runs at most for 8 hours a day. Fuel is expensive, and the generator can only be run sparingly. And when gas is not available, as was the case last week, there is no reliable lighting at night for patient care. Our lead engineer, Brent, climbed up on the roof of the one-story building and found a secure place for the solar panels. He passed the cord through a hole in the ceiling afforded by a vine covered atrium, and we found a spot for the suitcase in the patient ward. I reviewed the instructions carefully with the staff, and was reassured when these could be repeated back to me without error. We unpacked the headlamps, the battery charger, the solar-powered flashlights, and showed them how to record information from the charge controller to provide us with feedback about how well the system is performing. Another one of our systems has a home.
Tomorrow we’re taking a plane to Jeremie, a mountainous region that houses the Haitian Health Foundation and is not on the electric grid. Scores of midwives and birth attendants are awaiting our arrival – they’ve been told about the lights we are bringing to aid them in their nighttime duties.
We have found several applications for our suitcases in Haiti – and two groups developing sustainable housing have asked if we can showcase our suitcases. Other interested parties include disaster relief teams, mobile clinics, tent city clinicians, and of course, maternity clinics. We will have distributed four solar suitcases by the time we leave on Thursday.