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I am passionate about:
International education, sustainability, the environment and global citizenship
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I'm a triplet... all girls!
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Program Manager, We Share Solar
We Care Solar
Wendy has worked in international development and non-profit management for over a decade, with a special affinity for Africa and education programs. She recently served as the Director of Programs and Operations for Teach With Africa and as Co-Producer of EdTech Summit Africa. Wendy began her international work while living in rural South Africa developing and managing sustainable development projects with grassroots organizations and also worked as a Grant Writer for The Global Fund for Children. Wendy received a Masters in Sustainable Development from SIT Graduate Institute.
Thank you so much for taking the time to review and comment on our idea. I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the Kakamega School for the Deaf video and am grateful for your suggestion to include subtitles for the voice over. It is something we will keep in mind for all of our future media productions to ensure inclusion. We are absolutely interested in making Deaf schools a priority for receiving Solar Suitcases in Kenya and Uganda, but also for when we are able to start the pilot program to share the STEM education with teachers and students there. I love the thought of being able to engage Deaf students in this learning because it is so hands on and visual to go through the process of building a solar suitcase, troubleshooting, and learning about solar and electricity through interpreting the charge controller on the suitcase. It also makes me think that we’d need to come up with a solution for the quality check portion of our curriculum that relies on students using Digital Multimeters with an audible “beep” to check their wiring and electrical connections. I wonder if we could source equipment that provides a visual cue as well as audio cue. Thank you for sparking these thoughts. I would love to connect with you by email and discuss how you might be able to connect us to deaf schools and community groups in Kenya. When we saw the impact of a few Solar Suitcases at Kakamega School, it made us much more aware of the challenges faced by Deaf youth in schools and at home without reliable access to light and power. We would love to explore future partnerships.
Thank you also for the thoughts on the messaging around donations in an international development context. It is absolutely something we are conscious of and our teachers in the US are trained to work with their students in this project from a Global Citizenship and collaboration perspective, but it is a topic we are very much invested in learning from new perspectives, especially from the countries in which we work. I love the idea of co-creation, but not sure logistically how that would work across continents to build Solar Suitcases. I think this is why we are so excited about the idea of bringing the STEM program into the countries where we are working so that the systems would be build BY Kenyan youth, FOR Kenyan youth in their own communities or in other regions within their home country. This is our north star!
What a wonderful idea to submit! I agree that inclusion is the best practice and ideal to work towards. I like the idea of using clubs and Deaf facilitators to create awareness and inclusion. Wishing you all the best of luck and I hope to connect with you soon to see how we may be able to collaborate to provide We Share Solar Suitcases to Deaf Schools or Community Centres in Kenya and Uganda through your network.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback! You are absolutely right that young Kenyan women should be involved in the program planning and advising. This is something we take very seriously and are mindful of working closely with our partners in Kenya who are in the best position to advise us on feasibility and cultural context. We are fortunate to have strong partners with WISEE (Women in Sustainability and Entrepreneurship) in Nairobi, a collective organization of over 65 Kenyan & Ugandan women involved in renewable energy as engineers, technicians, academics and business consultants. Several of the lead WISEE members involved with We Share Solar are under 30 years old and leading the way in mentoring more young women in technical solar fields. We are also consulting with UNICEF’s Kenyan education team, UNESCO’s TeachHer global initiative for girls in STEAM, wPOWER Hub led by Wanjira Mathai to empower women in renewables entrepreneurship, and an all-girls grade 4-8 school in rural Kilgoris region, Kakenya Center for Excellence.
For the pilot program, we anticipate selecting participant schools through our already established partners (Kakenya Center for Excellence, UNESCO, UNICEF, and wPOWER Hub). Our ideal mix for a pilot program would include at least 1 rural school, 1 urban school, 1 peri-urban. Our target audience for training will be secondary (high school) teachers from all-girls schools, although we will also consider grade 7-8 teachers because we know this is a vital age to engage girls in STEM. We will look for schools that have a basic level of capacity and teacher interest in receiving training and implementing a solar suitcase program in their school. While the teacher training would likely take place in Nairobi, we would include a travel budget to bring teachers from more remote areas in Kenya to Nairobi for training. We also have strong local partners with Change Mtaani, a youth empowerment CBO in Kibera that would help us source a girls school to work with from the Kibera slum. We are working with UNICEF on a strategy to reach the most remote “last mile” students through their Out of School program that targets nomadic and pastoral communities. Kakenya Center for Excellence is an all-girls boarding school that serves vulnerable and underprivileged students from the rural Maasai community of Kilgoris. Our goal is to reach students and teachers from very remote and low resourced schools across Kenya and Uganda. While we are adapting our program for an East African context, we believe our highest rate of successful scaling will be to start with teachers and schools that have basic STEM competency and are interested in leading an engaging hands-on learning Solar Suitcase program and then build on our success with a well-developed growth strategy and network of regional partners.
The question of how to engage with more rural/remote schools is a good one. We may need to build in budget for our local partners to make occasional site visits to mentor schools in rural areas. We can certainly engage with them through a Whatsapp group, Facebook, Google Drive, and texting. We currently use Whatsapp for our rural Solar Suitcase recipient sites to ask questions or report feedback and challenges regarding system usage and maintenance. As this program scales, we could benefit from experimenting with other technology tools and platforms to connect.
We are reviewing the best option for quality check of the student-built suitcases for an East Africa program. In our US model, completed suitcases are sent to the We Share Solar facility in California where they receive a professional quality check and packed for international deployment. In Kenya, it may make sense to have a locally trained team visit each region to perform the quality control on-site or before installation. This may also be an opportunity for our partners to do an assessment of teacher and student learning and engage in mentorship opportunities with the female students. To Pippa’s comment above, we may also use the site visit opportunities as a way to engage private partners in this program in a meaningful way where they can contribute their business skills and enhance workforce preparedness.