SNDdeN Photovoltaic Sites Improve Lives Dramatically
by Sister Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN, General Treasurer and founder of the African Photovoltaic Project
In just 15 short years, our African Photovoltaic Project (APP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria has altered the life trajectories and course of history for thousands. Villagers, who – even today – labor under primitive conditions, are finally gaining access to readily available clean drinking water, adequate health care, and up-to-date education resources and economic opportunities.
In these villages, schools and medical facilities benefit from our photovoltaic projects for multiple systems: electrical power for water purifiers, filtration components, medical equipment, lights, computers and Internet access. All are miracles in their own right, and when taken together, they catapult entire villages into the Digital Age.
Changing the Course of History in Congolese and Nigerian Villages
We have been able to accomplish so much in such a short time because of the tenacity and flexibility of our Sisters “on the ground” working in those villages and the generosity and support of our communities and Sisters across the globe as well as the vision of our supporters and donors. Following the establishment of our first photovoltaic systems in the settlements of Fugar, Nigeria, in 2006 and Ngidinga, DRC, in 2008, the APP has grown to include a total of seven sites in Congo and ten in Nigeria. But there is still much to be done. Technology is constantly changing.
Photovoltaic engineering is also changing, and requires continuous up-grading and replacements of equipment. Our Sisters need continuing education opportunities and upgraded information on installation and maintenance of these systems. This education involves consultation with professional and skilled personnel as well access to resources and funding.
At our African missions, helping impoverished people achieve economic self-sufficiency is a direct offshoot of providing electricity, clean water, and communications for their day-to-day needs. In fact, this is our major goal. Establishing a cycle of health and well-being in a village through access to electricity allows people to contribute to the economic and educational growth in their communities.
This enables greater quality of life for all, enrichment for their communities and improved stability and economic health for their country, and undoubtedly for the world.
Our mission site in Ngidinga, Democratic Republic of Congo, is our greatest success story to date. The site has become a modernized hospital, school, and cyber cafe – all established, operated and sustained by Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
Ngidinga has been transformed from a struggling remote village to an improved, flourishing community, connected to the larger world through cell phones and the Internet. It is our ambition to procure the same benefits of improved health and well being for the other villages where we have established APP sites.
Challenge for the Future
At this stage of our African Photovoltaic Project, the goal is to transfer the supervision, maintenance, and administration of the photovoltaic sites from Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the Northern Hemisphere to Sisters in ministry in the villages themselves. It is a task that has already been accomplished by Sisters at the Congregation’s Nigerian sites.
Due to the great complexity of the systems in the DRC, this transfer of responsibilities will take more time for our Congolese Sisters to assume the same level of responsibility for the sites operating within their own missions, but that time is coming.
It is crucial to create a team of in-country Sisters, technicians, and vendors capable of maintaining and sustaining the operations of the systems. Our Sisters on location are an essential part of this team.
Since the Sisters and Co-workers have limited knowledge, experience and management skills involving photovoltaic energy, the project remains simply another source of outside aid to Africa.
All development or nonprofit agencies today realize that only self-sustainable models better serve people affected by any project.
To empower our Sisters and Communities with education and experience to make them as resilient and self-reliant as possible is the goal. Self-sufficiency leads to freedom.
Success in Sustainability
With the generous support of our Sisters across the globe and other generous donors, Sister Leonore Coan, SNDdeN, Director of Mission Support, has raised more than $5,000,000 for this project.
The Congregation has expended over $6,000,000 for this Project installation.
At the completion of our current installations in Mpese, Nselo, and Kinsaku, DRC, expected to be fully operational toward the end of 2018, any remaining resources will be available for ongoing upgrades, maintenance, and repairs as needed.
An idea, evolving from a 2002 General Chapter call to SNDdeN for equal access to information and communication through technology, has grown into a major miracle for sustainable life for our Sisters, their ministries, communities, and the people in Congo and Nigeria.