In the Caribbean country of Haiti, only one in seven people have access to electricity. IEEE Smart Village partners with the Sirona Cares Foundation, which, in 2010, began deploying IEEE Smart Village community charging stations. Through local entrepreneurs in rural communities of Haiti, who then lease portable battery kits to homeowners for lighting and cell-phone charging. The SunBlazer II is so robust that one unit can supply enough electricity to light up 83 homes in one community, and the monthly fee to the homeowner is less than the cost of candles and kerosene (and/or fuel to run small generators). In this way, the IEEE Smart Village market approach redirects expenditures already spent on energy in an off-grid community and demands no new investments.
Sirona Cares initially deployed renewable-energy solutions in six villages. Since then, Sirona Cares has been expanding its footprint to dozens more communities. Over 2,000 homes have been served, reaching up to 120,000 people. For every home that is lit, 10 more homeowners join the waiting list to receive portable battery kits. Leveraging IEEE Smart Village’s initial gifts of equipment, professional support and seed funding, Sirona Cares has now attracted additional funding of $1 million from other international donors to greatly expand its capacity.
A university analysis of the impact of the work in Haiti says that “access to electricity … fostered entrepreneurial growth and allowed villagers to increase their productivity. When villagers no longer had to rely on the polluting fuels of diesel and kerosene, observable health improvements were possible and there was less harm to the physical environment. Villagers believe that lighting has improved their lives through healthier living from a smoke free environment, better educational opportunities for their children due to the extended day for studying, additional opportunities for leisure and leisure activities such as radio and television, and increased opportunities to expand their work, and earn a better living. Several villagers expressed that the effect on their quality of life outweighed any money they could hope to generate or save by using the solar kits. One of our participants commented that ‘now I feel like a human being’ after being given electricity.”