March 30, 2023 / SonLight Power Mission Trips
Teen Spirit in Puerto Rico: Part II
“I just loved the students’ energy, care, and passion for making a difference in our world. We talked and laughed about someday, maybe 20 years from now, they might get to go back to Puerto Rico and still see the fruit of their labor in a different kind of way.”
– Tina McKinley, SonLight Power Board Member and Spiritual Care Leader
If asked your opinion of today’s teenagers, how would you describe them?
Ask any representative of SonLight Power who served alongside teens on a recent solar project in Puerto Rico and you may hear words like: hardworking, amazing, energetic, passionate.
Nine such students were part of the second annual Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy service immersion trip with SonLight Power that headed to Puerto Rico in January, this time to equip the PRoTechos training facility and offices with solar power.
PRoTechos is a nonprofit organization that fulfills a unique and vital purpose in Puerto Rico. Their mission is to reconstruct roofs in Puerto Rico that have sustained damage due to hurricanes common to the island (see photo below).
PRoTechos also provides related vocational training as part of their mission.
“For the first time, we’ll just be able to come in and turn the lights on,” said Eleven Cook, director of operations for PRoTechos. “That’s really huge for us; not having to run a generator.”
As a solar power nonprofit, SonLight Power ensures our project teams are prepared for their experiences in places like Puerto Rico and other mission fields where we often equip other nonprofit organizations with solar power.
“It’s not like nine high school students came to Puerto Rico and stood and watched us install the solar system. No, instead, nine high school students came to Puerto Rico, and we showed them what needed to happen. Then we watched them do it. It’s always so exciting!”
– Tina McKinley
The adult leaders on the mission team, including SonLight Power staff, hosted a Solar School workshop prior to the trip that served as an orientation for the CHCA students.
“When the students come to orientation, we get to do some hands-on things,” says Tina McKinley, a SonLight Power board member who also serves on mission trips as a spiritual care leader. “We introduce students to the tools and materials that they’re going to be using on the installation.”
Supplied with drills, hammers, wires, and electrical faceplates, the students received a crash course in solar electric principles, construction, and power tool use.
“We got into teams of three and were able to build a miniature model house,” Tina says. “We watched the students become a team.”
One of Tina’s co-leaders on the trip was Jill Council, SonLight Power’s mission coordinator. Jill praised the students who were part of this year’s CHCA January-term (J-term) immersion trip with SonLight Power.
“The students were incredibly hardworking, many of them reaching outside of their comfort zone in a new environment and working with power tools,” Jill says. “The solar installation was a success and brought such joy to the faces of the PRoTechos team as their training facility was illuminated for the first time.”
The PRoTechos training facility not only hosts their vocational training program, but also serves as their main office. It’s the only office space available to the organization.
”For the first time, we’ll just be able to come in and turn the lights on. That’s really huge for us; not having to run a generator.”
– Eleven Cook, Director of Operations for PRoTechos
Since Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island in the path of frequent, destructive hurricanes, PRoTechos and their neighbors are vulnerable to electrical power loss. The new solar power system will improve and expand PRoTecho’s ability to serve the surrounding region.
“What we can do here in this community is provide a place for people to come charge their phones, keep their insulin or baby formula cold, etc.,” says Eleven. “We have a close relationship with this community. We’ve rebuilt several roofs nearby; we have a presence in this community. Now we can both be a safe haven for people to come, and better fuel our work.”
Lasting Impact Beyond Solar
In collaboration with another partner nonprofit, Hunger Corp, the SonLight Power team also helped restore the home of Gladys Rivera, a single woman living in the community of La Hormiga in Dorado, Puerto Rico.
“Gladys has several medical issues and had to abandon her house after hurricane damage…but now it is ready for her to move back in at the end of the month thanks to the work of the students,” says Jill.
Jill and Tina helped with the restoration effort at Gladys’ home. As a spiritual care leader for SonLight Power teams, Tina shines as she describes her role with this mission team in Puerto Rico.
“I intentionally think about the team that’s going on the mission trip and pray for them before we go,” she says. “While we’re on the mission trip, I’m always looking for the bigger story…maybe the story about what God is doing on this trip – in our lives as well as the lives of the people we’re serving.”
The CHCA students were especially enthusiastic about their time in Puerto Rico.
“I just loved the students’ energy, care, and passion for making a difference in our world, which has lasted longer than just one day,” Tina says. “We talked and laughed about someday, maybe 20 years from now, they might get to go back to Puerto Rico and still see the fruit of their labor in a different kind of way.”
Talk about lasting impact, a cornerstone of every SonLight Power solar mission trip. Just as encouraging was the active role each student played along the journey.
“On the first day of the install, Clay Luna, SonLight Power’s director of programs, had the students walk through the site and he had them scope the project,” Tina says. “It’s not like nine high school students came to Puerto Rico and stood and watched us install the solar system. No, instead, nine high school students came to Puerto Rico, and we showed them what needed to happen. Then we watched them do it. It’s always so exciting!”
When speaking with Jill and Tina, it’s impossible not to feel hopeful about the difference a solar power nonprofit like SonLight Power can make in the lives of youth. Jill and Tina’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“Teenagers are amazing and give me so much hope for the future of this world!” Jill exclaims.
“I stay and continue to work with SonLight Power because I truly believe in the mission,” Tina says. “It’s just a simple, practical way to show God’s love, to encourage people and to provide hope.”
Big thanks to our corporate partners at eSkillz! The amazing employees of eSkillz raised funds to help make this project – and its lasting impact – possible. Thank you, eSkillz!
Does your organization want to generate lasting impact and goodwill brand equity by sponsoring a SonLight Power project? Connect with us today at Communication@SonLightPower.org to get the conversation started.