July 1, 2018 / University of Dayton ETHOS partnership / Source: John Stowell



The warm Caribbean air. The friendly people. The heartbreaking poverty. The dark nights.
Haiti reminded Elodie Fausther Verembia so much of her home in the west central African nation of Gabon.  And that was good, because the second-year master’s student at the University of Dayton plans to return home after graduation to bring clean, solar energy to her country of two million people.

Elodie was one of three University of Dayton graduate students who participated in a recent SonLight Power solar installation near Port-au-Prince at a hotel used primarily by visiting Christian missionaries serving in Haiti.

Elodie and her peers learned about mission opportunities with SonLight Power through The ETHOS Center on campus.

ETHOS stands for Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service.  The ETHOS Center opened as a service-learning program 17 years ago.  Through technical immersions, student activities, research and hands-on projects, students use their engineering skills for humanitarian purposes, serving others through practical engineering knowledge while applying Christian principles of charity and justice.

Because of the close alignment between the two missions, SonLight Power and The ETHOS Center have developed a partnership and this trip to Haiti was one of the first for Dayton students.  Elodie was joined on the trip by fellow graduate students Daniel Ulbricht of Kentucky and Oludare Oluwabusi of Nigeria.

They were met in Port-au-Prince by another Dayton student and native of Haiti, François Vibert, a Fulbright Scholar who has since been hired by SonLight Power as the mission’s first solar engineer and programs coordinator in Haiti.  For more on Francois’ incredible journey, see François’ Story.

The team was led by Clay Luna, Director of Programs for SonLight Power.  They installed 24 solar panels at the Bel Fle Missions Hotel, operated by Cincinnati-based Matthew 25: Ministries.  Bel Fle hosts visiting mission teams throughout the year.

“The project at Bel Fle is another example of the power of partnerships in places like Haiti,” explained SonLight Power Executive Director, Kevin Sasson.

“SonLight Power is equipping Matthew 25: Ministries and Bel Fle with the solar power they need to reduce the use of noisy, expensive generators while providing visiting missionaries with a quiet, comfortable stay,” Kevin continued.

“Meanwhile, Matthew 25: Ministries is providing SonLight Power a venue where we can demonstrate the practical applications of solar power for mission organizations staying at Bel Fle, helping raise awareness of our outreach in Haiti with a targeted audience,” said Kevin.

As a participant on the project installation, Elodie was grateful for the opportunity to be apprenticed outside the classroom.  “I had to learn about all the tools Clay had with him and what they did,” Elodie said, “and, of course, how to use them.  I learned how to install correctly, and I learned what not to do.”

“If we can use the sun to bring electricity, we can make a real difference in fighting disease and making life better. This trip made me realize even more how important access to electricity is.”

— Elodie
Elodie took photos of the faulty electrical installations she found while traveling in Haiti.  That way, she could study the common shortcuts made by novices that can result in short-circuits, or worse, fires and electrocutions.

“I saw a lot of messes,” she laughed, “so I learned how important it was to follow the regulations.”

Ultimately, it was the people of Haiti who left a lasting impression on the team.  “They were so nice and so grateful and so generous even though they are very poor economically,” Elodie noted.

She recalled people giving her mangoes for a snack and trying to power through the language barrier between their native Haitian Creole and her English.  All the time, she said, they were smiling.

Elodie sees access to electricity as a key to Haiti’s future – just as she does in her native Gabon.  And, she said, it must be renewable, sustainable electricity to eliminate pollution and address climate change.  Elodie believes SonLight Power is well-aligned with that vision and she’s thrilled that The ETHOS Center has partnered with such a mission.

“I’m praying for it,” Elodie said of her dream of bringing solar power to Gabon.  “If we can use the sun to bring electricity, we can make a real difference in fighting disease and making life better.  This trip made me realize even more how important access to electricity is.”

For more information: THE FUTURE IS [FUL]BRIGHT

View news archive »