Remote Energy Partners with Expanding Lives to Teach Solar to Young Women from Niger & Benin


Remote Energy (RE) partnered with Expanding Lives to teach a 2-day Small DC Solar Electric Systems course in the summer of 2018 as part of our Women's Program. The course was part of the Expanding Lives 6 week leadership class, to provide education and leadership experiences to young women in West Africa and young people in the United States.

We Share Solar (WSS) donated curriculum and discounted the equipment. North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and other generous donors funded the 2-day solar electric course with hands-on lab and a We Share Solar (WSS) suitcase.

RE Co-Founder, Carol Weis, taught the course which covered solar electric fundamentals, how to safely use tools, and how to construct a WSS suitcase kit. The completed suitcase will be used as a small lighting system for a school in Niger.

The community receiving the solar suitcase and panels is College d'Enseignement Secondaire de Tchadoua, the only high school in Tchadoua, Niger. Tchadoua, about 700 kilometers from the capital, Niamey, is a rural commune. The high school is attended by about 2500 students, most of them from rural areas where there are no high schools. The school has no electricity, no well, and no latrines. Currently, students have study groups with lamps, candles, and flashlights.

The solar suitcase is helping Expanding Lives to build a relationship with the school. The solar suitcase unit will charge during the day and will power two lightbulbs to be used in the evenings in a classroom where exam candidates meet to study.  In the beginning of the year, when students are less feverish about studying, the director feels that teachers will take advantage of the light to work on lesson plans. Community building will take place as teachers, most originally from outside the area, will work together. There are a lot of new rural school in Niger, and a serious lack of teachers. Teachers are drawn to schools with resources, places where they can improve, and where students have a chance to succeed. The solar project is something that teachers and students alike can learn from.   

Founder of Expanding Lives, Leslie Natzke, said the following about the training

I am excited about this project for so many reasons. Okay, yes, one girl will go back to her community with a small power source, and that will be helpful to the community and her status will go up. More people will know about Expanding Lives and start to think about our mission of educating girls where only 8 percent girls go to secondary school.  However, in the larger picture, all the girls also got to use tools and power tools. They worked as a team trouble shooting and problem solving. They understand how electricity works. Solar energy is not just something they have seen in pictures or on a roof in the city. All of this has built their self-confidence. They are proud of themselves for so many reasons. Just today, as they were writing their first resumés, they told the teacher, "We put together a solar power system." The teacher said, "Wow! You put together a solar panel?" "No! We put together a whole system. And we could do it again!"

This was a pilot class to gauge the interest in the group and whether this was a good fit. The students were very engaged and saw immediate practicalities of using solar in their everyday life. These young women are currently studying for their bac exams and need light at night to study. One of the students has already taught 2 short trainings about the system to other girls in her school.

Moving forward, Remote Energy and Expanding Lives plans to lengthen this course in 2019 to be a 5-day class in order to offer more in-depth training, and to send all participants home with a system for their school.

If you would like to support this solar training, please visit our donation page