Co-founder and CEO Dr. Laura Stachel traveled to Northern Nigeria in 2008 to study ways to lower maternal mortality in hospitals. She witnessed difficult conditions in public health facilities, including sporadic electricity that impaired maternity and surgical care. Without a reliable source of electricity, nighttime deliveries were attended in near darkness, cesarean sections were cancelled or conducted by flashlight, and critically ill patients waited hours or days for life-saving procedures. The outcomes were often tragic.
Laura contacted her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy educator, and Hal designed a small off-grid solar electric system for the hospital where Laura was conducting research. When Laura returned to Nigeria toting the “Solar Suitcase,” her Nigerian colleagues immediately put it to use. As word of their innovative power solution spread, they received requests from clinics and health workers around the world. Together, Laura and Hal co-founded We Care Solar to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies in regions without reliable electricity.
Enter We Care Solar’s Director of Engineering, Brent Moellenberg, a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, whom Hal and Laura met in 2010. Brent could see that despite the functionality of the unique kits Hal had assembled, a manufacturer’s design was necessary in order to provide the scale needed to meet growing demand. When they subsequently received a grant to deploy 20 systems to Liberia, Brent began working on the design — solidified shortly thereafter — which came to be known as the We Care Solar Suitcase.