Solar + Volunteer Work - A Solar-Pro's Dream African Vacation

I have just returned from my 5th trip to the Tumaini Children's Foundation, home to 50 kids in the town of Usa River, Tanzania. I was joined this year by Canadian Solar Professionals, Bob Waddell from Toronto, and Cameron Murdoch and his wife, Andrea, from Victoria. We had a fantastic 2 weeks of kid chasing, solar installing, safari-ing and acting as general handy people for Tumaini's move to a new, bigger home on the slopes of Mount Meru, Kilimanjaro's smaller sister.

Tumaini became HES's favourite outreach project when its founder, Cherie Szucs and her husband, Steve, came to HES in 2012 seeking a solution to the chronic electricity issues facing the orphanage. They have solar on their farm in Simcoe, Ontario, and knew HES as distributor of solar products. Cherie, or "Mama Dee" as the kids call her, spends half the year in Tanzania, and the other half in Canada, fundraising for the orphanage. With grid power working less than 30% of the time (and sometimes off for weeks in a row) it can be challenging to run study lights in the evening, pump water, or do laundry.

This January we returned to move the 4kW solar system, 6kW inverter system, and Rolls battery bank. The solar system had been generously donated by Hanwha Canada, Jamie Surrette helped with the batteries, and the OutBack inverter system was personally donated by Brandon and Jeniffier Provalenko. HES provided the shipping and all of the electrical and Balance of System (BOS) equipment. The moving process included disassembling bunk beds for the 50 kids, relocating the kitchen, office, school materials and of course, the kids. Many loaded truck trips back and forth on dirt roads, with the poor little Tumaini Toyota truck flat on its springs. But mission accomplished - kids love their new home, and were welcomed by a family of Colobus monkeys in the trees!

The reason I write this is that I have had many people from our industry say to me: "I've always wanted to do something like that!". While I will constantly rave about my experience, I think all the volunteers who have come to Tumaini have also had an incredible, life changing view through the experience. There are the kids, who are just amazing. They work hard, help each other, and prosper in the safe, nurturing environment that Tumaini offers. There are the volunteers, who come from all over the globe to help (many find it rewarding and return over and over!) There is also an African adventure, with wildlife parks like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater within a few hours drive, Kilimanjaro for a 5 day summit hike, and the beaches of Zanzibar. Tumaini is well set up to handle volunteers, with dedicated accommodations (which we called the Frat-House), with bunk beds, a solar power system, and (sometimes) hot water. Volunteers eat with the kids and my favourites are the bananas, watermelon and pilau rice dish that Margie cooks. There are also good places to eat in Usa River, with the Rivertrees for pizza and Tanz-Hand's for ice-cream sundaes.

If you are interested in volunteering, go to the Tumaini web site for more information.

Right now, the Tumaini Children’s Foundation is looking for sponsors to help them buy water storage tanks to help it manage through the dry season. If you want to contribute, Tumaini is a registered charity in Canada and the US, so donors are eligible for a Charitable Tax receipt. You can donate directly on the Tumaini web site: Need a gift idea? How about a donation as a gift to your family/friends on your behalf?

Thanks from Mama Dee, HES, and all the great kids at Tumaini.

Dave Egles, President


Donate Now!


Leave a Reply