November 12, 2018 / SonLight Power Teams With Beyond Relief Trade School / Source: John Stowell




No Longer Beyond Reach:
SonLight Power teams with Beyond Relief trade school to equip Haitians with solar power and skills

How do you break the cycle of generational poverty that, for so long, has made Haiti the most
economically vulnerable country in the Western Hemisphere?

It isn’t a handout, David Kuntz says.  It’s learning a skill that can lead to a job that, in turn, can make a person self-supporting, confident and happy. David and his wife, Rita, founded Beyond Relief International Ministries in late 2010 and, last month, an experienced SonLight Power team installed 24 solar panels and associated equipment at the ministry’s trade school in northern Haiti.

“God has opened doors for us to first start and then grow but we simply didn’t have reliable power and that was a problem,” David said referring to a line of 15 computers that would grow dark when the aging back-up generator ran out of fuel.

The school and related buildings are now operating with 100 percent reliable and renewable solar energy – an enormous blessing to the 500 Haitians who are learning trades from plumbing, tiling and sewing to computer programming and, fittingly, electrical installation and repair.

 “It’s another cool example of how the SonLight Power mission uniquely lends itself to collaboration rather than duplication,” Kevin Sasson, SonLight Power’s executive director said.

“In the spirit of Ephesians 4:12,” Kevin continued, “we’re equipping effective missions like Beyond Relief with the solar power they need and apprenticeship opportunities to make a greater impact in the name of Jesus than either mission organization could do on its own.”

SonLight Power puts that practice to work thanks to the newest member of our team in Haiti – François Vibert – who is helping other Haitians learn how to correctly and safely install solar power.

François recently earned his master’s degree in renewable energy from the University of Dayton.  He also interned with SonLight Power before returning to his home country to teach the basics of solar energy.  François’ new role with SonLight Power provides the opportunity for him to apprentice other Haitians, as he did while installing solar power at Beyond Relief.

Some would say the Beyond Relief trade school in St. Louis du Nord is located beyond the reach of most who travel to Haiti.  After arriving in Port-au-Prince, the six-person mission team travelled north more than six hours by truck on rugged roads, then finished the journey on the backs of donkeys.  The heat was inescapable and stifling.

Adding to the adversity, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit northern Haiti just a day before the team’s arrival.

“I told them I wanted the hardest, sweatiest, dirtiest trip you can get me,” SonLight Power veteran team member, Jamie Laycock said, laughing. 

“I told them I wanted the hardest, sweatiest, dirtiest trip you can get me,” SonLight Power veteran team member, Jamie Laycock said, laughing.  “I’d gone on an earlier [SonLight Power] trip to Bel Fle – Matthew 25: Ministries’ impressive mission hotel near Port-au-Prince – and I was mildly disappointed because it was too luxurious.  I needed a challenge.”

Jamie’s wish came true.  With 32-years’ experience as an electrician with Schneider Electric, the Peru, Indiana native had been to Haiti four previous times to, as he said, “break away from my Midwest blinders where everything looks the same.”  St. Louis du Nord certainly was not the Midwest.

The team installed the solar panels on the concrete roof of the school’s guest house and rewired the entire complex.  “The wiring that was there was very poor.  There was a stark contrast from what the school was like before and is now with lights and reliable electricity,” Jamie noted.

Most of the school’s students were away, dismissed a few days before the SonLight Power team arrived to help their families recover from the earthquake that had hit earlier.  But a few students, several of the teachers and the school’s director helped with the installation.

“That was the most exciting thing for me,” David said, “having our own teachers see the installation first-hand so they can teach the students how to do that themselves.”

“Well, all I can say is that I wish I could do this all the time,” Jamie said. “It was a tough week but very rewarding.  I plan to go back once or twice a year.”

David and Rita have great plans for the trade school now that they can depend on their power supply. As word has spread, they’ve seen a steady uptick in applications even though they now charge a nominal fee to enroll.  Students range from the unemployed to the underemployed, all of whom simply want to better their lives.

Lately, professionals such as nurses, teachers and doctors have enrolled in the school’s computer classes, hoping to improve their performance and opportunities.  The school has added Saturday classes and now operates six days a week.

This is often how Haiti advances.  What could be considered small, incremental steps forward are important ways for people to steadily improve their lives by investing in their own personal future.  The Beyond Relief trade school project is SonLight Power’s shared commitment to that future.


For more information on how you can equip your mission with solar power, visit the Equip Your Mission page on the SonLight Power website.


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