Making Connections

One of the best parts of my job is getting to hear from people who are putting change into action through their ideas, leadership skills, and open attitude.

And often the skills and ideas they have can also be useful for someone else who is working to improve things in another community. Making connections and matchings people’s questions and answers – fostering dynamic networks – is a vibrant part of the SIA model for change.

Recently I wrote a blog post for Amazon Partnerships, a blog collecting stories and new perspectives on community development, about two such Spirit in Action connections. I invite you to read the full post here.

Coordinators from Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, & Uganda gathered to discuss SIA programs.

Bringing together SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators from Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, & Uganda in 2011 resulted in a lot of new connections, and some constructive dialog about how to make our programs better.

A Cake Cooked By The Sun

I plan on observing Valentine’s Day today with a cupcake from my local bakery, Cupcake Cafe. But if I was in Eldoret, Kenya, I might be celebrating with a cake from the newly established Seeing is Believing Cafe, run by Camily and Gaudenziah Wedende.
Tanya visits Camily's solar cooker shop in August 2011.

Tanya visits Camily's solar cooker shop in August 2011. People gather to hear about using the strange boxes to cook food.

 

Gaudenziah, whose husband Camily has received several grants from Spirit in Action to promote and sell solar cookers out of the front of their home, was recently inspired with a new business plan. She knew that solar cookers use the power of the sun to cook foods such as meat, beans, eggs, rice, and vegetables. Then, in October I emailed to the Wedendes a story from the Solar Cookers International newsletter.

The article, about the work of Light Gives Heat in Kisumu, Kenya, told of the great opportunity of baking with solar cookers. “Most people cannot make high-quality cakes because of the irregular temperatures of charcoal and wood stoves, but solar cookers bake perfect, moist cakes with very little worry of burning or over-cooking.”

Pat-A-Cake

The story sparked Gaudenziah and Camily into action! “We shall be selling cakes and tea and we will also be boiling eggs in the solar cookers and people can buy when they pass beside the cafe,” wrote Camily excitedly to me.

They already have the solar cookers that Camily made from wood, glass, and reflective tinfoil, and they were able to use some of the profits from their cooker sales to buy a few baking supplies and paint for a sign. “SEEING IS BELIEVING CAFE is a wonderful name,” declares Camily, “because people are seeing, testing food that has been cooked in the solar cookers, then they believe and then they end up buying the cooker!”

Gaudenziah pours sun cooked tea for a customer.

Gaudenziah pours sun cooked tea for a customer.

A Sunny Outlook

It isn’t hard to see now, in the sunny season in Eldoret, that solar cookers can produce good tasting local foods, without using expensive charcoal or spending all day walking to gather wood for a traditional three-stone fire. “Right now we are in the dry season and now our solar cookers can cook all types of food in a short time, like 3 hours,” says Camily, in the sales pitch for his hand-made solar cookers.

Proudly, Camily and Gaudenziah reported this month, “With the profits that come out of the business, we are able to pay school fees for David our son [in 10th grade] and we have some to put back into the business.”

I wonder how solar cooked cupcakes taste. Hopefully someday I’ll get to taste, see, and believe for myself!

Gaudenziah and Tanya at Solar Cookers

Tanya visits Gaudenziah at her family's thriving Solar Cookers business in Eldoret, Kenya.

So sunny you could boil an egg!

Camily Wedende was excited for us to visit his solar cooker storefront in Eldoret, Kenya last month. He eagerly texted our host and driver, Dennis Kiprop, to find out when we would get there.

After a long trek down crowded roads, Boyd Cothran, my husband and SIA Board member, Dennis Kiprop, and I finally made it there. Even though the sky threatened rain, there was enough solar energy to “hard boil” an egg in one of Camily’s solar cookers!

Camily proudly showed us around his shop, telling us of grateful customers and interested potential customers. Solar cookers greatly reduce the need to search for firewood and eliminate the need for expensive cooking fuel, features that are especially appealing for rural Kenyans and internal refugees.

Below is a photo essay of our visit to the Sun Cookers International store.

Related posts:

The sun FUELS many projects!

Camily Wedende likes to spread the word about the benefit of solar cookers, which use the sunlight as “fuel” to pasteurize water and slow-cook food.

In additional to receiving several SIA Community Grants to make solar cookers for families in refugee camps near Eldoret, Kenya, Camily also works with students to explore solar cooker technology. The following update was included in the latest newsletter from Solar Cookers International of Sacramento, CA. It is inspiring to read about these great innovations!

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February 2011: Student success with solar cooking

The Eldoret Student Projects in Kenya, spear­headed by Camily Wedende of Sun Cookers International, and aided by long­distance advisor, Sharon Cousins, board member of Solar Cookers International, have taken an important step in that spread with a student team who not only learned how to cook with sunshine but also learned to take a creative and scientific approach to solar cooking. Students researched existing solar cookers on the Solar Cookers World Network site. They put their heads together and came up with new ideas to try. They performed Imparative tests on an existing model and two of their prototypes.

Students display their solar cooker prototypes

While all three reached cooking temperatures, one innovation showed the strongest performance at their location. All twenty students built durable solar panel cookers to take home to the camps where they live, and have been using them to prepare food and provide water pasteurization for their families. They keep records of their progress and experiments, amazing the neighbors who stop by to see food cooking in a stove powered by sunshine, a stove that children in their community helped to invent. Camily and the team hope that other schools and clubs can use the example of their pilot project to help more youth become scientists for solar cooking, to aid in the spread of this bright idea whose time has come.

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Solar Cooking Season in Kenya

While last week we barely got above freezing in Minneapolis, this is the “solar cooking season” in Kenya! Camily Wedende, a SIA grant recipient, trains people people who have been internally displaced and are living in refugee camps near Eldoret to use the power of the sun to cook their food and pateurize water.

Here, in his own words, Camily reports on the utility and popularity of solar cookers in his community:

“Right now its too hot nearly the whole country, we cook most food in solar cookers in less than three hours. Most food that we eat at lunch time is cooked by the sunshine. The solar cookers are outside everyday people seeing, taste food and news spreading as people come for trainings.

Many can now boil water in the solar cookers before drinking most rivers are dried up and if you happen to get little is contaminated and needs to be pasteurized . Solar cooker is the best to pasteurize the water.”

Thank you Camily! How exciting to be able to use the sun, a resource that God has provided, to cook food. Now if you could only send some warmth my way….

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