It’s time for a big update from BTLP! Our hard work and planning finally came to fruition the week of March 7th through 11th in a community on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. With our partners there, Universidad Maria Auxiliadora (UMA), we were able to bring light and energy to the families of 18 homes in the region. The area, called San Juan de Lurigancho, is the poorest district in Lima and is the focus of an initiative started by UMA called UMA Barrio. The homes are located on very high, steep slopes where access to water and electricity is rare. For those that can connect to power, the price of energy is too high for the people to afford and many times they pay exorbitant fees to neighbors to share their power illegally.
After traveling to Lima, we met with the team at the UMA campus and sprang into action. Jim gave the team of faculty and staff from the university his lightening-speed training on all things solar and then the assembly began. Through the frenzy of connecting nuts, bolts, and wires we finally had completed the panels, controllers, and battery boxes we needed.
The faculty at UMA had completed an initial survey of the area and designated the 18 homes where we would complete the installations. They also chose three skilled workers from the community for Jim to train as technicians. We loaded up the van and, after climbing many steep steps hauling the equipment and tools, we were greeted by the community.
The process of installing the panels and complete systems was quite detailed. You don’t just slap a solar panel onto a roof and call it a day. Jim took time to show the technicians the proper way to install, and they were all very quick learners. At the end of each installation, Allison explained the system to the family and what to do if any issues came up. We now have three main technicians, Gilberto, Marco, and Jorge, in one area and one technician, Raul, in the other. It was impressive how motivated and smart these guys are!
The team from UMA university was amazing and worked hard with us the whole week. We had Patricia and John Carlos working on the surveys at every house, and Juan was our fearless driver and also quite the handy-man. We can thank Paul for recording our week with spectacular pictures and video ( you can tell the ones that are his!). Dilber graciously doubled as a technician and even our team organizers Luis and Pedro pitched in to help with the installations (although Jim said their talents were best suited at being supervisors). The students Lus and Sandy kept it fun with Tik Tok videos and lots of selfies, and even the UMA President Gladys Moran Paredes came out to support us during the week.
It took all five days to complete the installations for the 18 homes. It was exhausting, but to see the smiles on the families faces and hear them explain how having electricity was going to benefit their lives was priceless. They mentioned how now their children would be able to read at night, they wouldn’t have to buy candles for light, they would feel safer at night, and they wouldn’t have to pay their neighbors to access electricity or charge their cell phones. It was a gift to be able to get to know these wonderful people.
With the installations completed, the plan is for the UMA survey team to go back every three months for a year to complete the post-interviews and see how things are going. In one year we will see how we did, and if things look good can talk about future plans for expansion. We are super-excited about this project and hope to return to Lima soon to work more and to eat more of the fabulous Peruvian cuisine! We also need to continue the debate on where the Pisco Sour drink originated (Peruvians say it is from Peru, but Chileans would argue with that. Since our partners are in Peru we are leaning toward that side). Thanks to everyone who supports our projects at BTLP and also to our fabulous partners at UMA!
Drs Jim and Allison Huffman