By Patricia Daukantas
For most of the past week since my last blog post, I’ve been wondering: How can the field of optics and photonics help Haiti in its rebuilding effort? Telecommunications? Building sensors?
The full answer to that question is yet to be written, but I’ve found one organization, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), that is accelerating its efforts to bring photovoltaic energy to health-care sites in the earthquake-stricken Caribbean nation.
Founded in 1990, SELF has long been providing photovoltaic home systems to residents of remote Third World villages. In some countries, the group has expanded its efforts into solar-powered computer labs, water-pumping stations and other electrification projects.
Fund officials now say on their Web site that SELF is intensifying its efforts to provide solar power to the Haitian clinics and field hospitals operated by Partners in Health (PIH), a Massachusetts-based medical care provider. The Web site states: “Diesel fuel, now used at the majority of PIH sites in Haiti, is already in short supply and will likely become even more difficult to obtain as time goes by. Solar can help fill a short-term need in terms of providing power for PIH's relief efforts, and over the long-term, solar energy can serve as a foundation for a robust and sustainable healthcare infrastructure in Haiti.”
Another solar-power charity, Light Up the World, says on its Web site that it is studying ways to provide photovoltaics to humanitarian operations in Haiti once the logistical challenges are worked out. That group has worked in Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea and other nations in the past, though not Haiti.
If you hear of any other organizations that aim to bring optical and photonic technologies to Haiti as the country rebuilds, please let us at OPN know – we would love to blog about them.