Dear Friends & Family
Greetings from The World Energy Project (WEP)! In the last year we have had a number of extraordinary opportunities to make a difference in the lives of students around the world, and would love to share them with you. We are also excited about our next project, and want to tell you about that as well.
Last summer, eight members of WEP had the opportunity to travel to Uganda and Kenya. Our experiences there profoundly influenced our vision moving forward, and have allowed us to refocus our mission in order to make a greater impact. In Uganda, we worked alongside Jim Rickett’s charity “Opportunity Education,” and exploredpossibilities for future projects. Our team split up and spent a week teaching in various schools across the capital city of Kampala. We were able to teach classes ranging from English to the sciences, including Physics and Calculus.
Chris Lander teaching Ugandan students about the water cycle.
The experience allowed us to become familiar with the Ugandan educational environment and interact with the students. Most importantly, we were able to assess the energy needs of a typical school in Kampala during our time there.
After our time in Uganda, our team moved on to Kenya, where we finally had the opportunity to meet all of the wonderful people at St. Anne’s Girls School in Kapkemich. It was great to be able to shake hands and sit down with the people we had been working with for over a year. While meeting with the local electrician, we learned that there was no place in the school safe enough to house the batteries for the solar panel system, so we arranged for a separate battery room to be built in back of the school.
Unfortunately, we had many communication problems with the company we were using to ship our container of solar panels and equipment from the States. Due to these problems, the container did not arrive while we were in Kenya. In fact, it did not arrive until December 2012! We are excited, however, that the solar panels are there, and are being transported to the school under the guidance of Father Anthony, who is currently in Kenya.
We were disappointed we could not install our solar panel system, but we still found ways to make use of our opportunity. We were able to spend time getting to know the students and were able to help the school in other ways. It turned out the school had a building for a library, but all of the books were boxed up. So for two weeks The World Energy Project became the “World Library Project”. There were roughly a quarter of a million books that had arrived in a shipping container courtesy of Friends of St. Anne’s, and they needed to be unpacked and organized into categories. Some of our team went around the village looking for lumber and nails, while others designed shelves for our limited supplies. At one point, one member of the village took us to his father so we could buy clay bricks to use for our shelving. Once the students saw our team carrying these bricks up to the school, they all came out and created a make-shift assembly line, passing the bricks to each other and bringing them to the library building.
While working on the library, we became more and more aware of the incredible impact sustainable energy would have for the school. Without sources of reliable energy, students are faced with the reality of insufficient lighting in their classrooms, studying by candlelight when the power constantly turns off, and limited access to the Internet at a time when information is the currency of relevancy and growth. Now, more than ever, it’s apparent how students in the developing world are at a major disadvantage without access to reliable electricity. These experiences led the World Energy Project to refocus our ideas and implement a new campaign designed to have a direct impact on education called Energy for Education.
Education for Energy
Energy for Education is program to engage the world in a dialogue centered on global awareness of sustainable energy challenges. Only by empowering people to overcome these challenges can we hope to achieve a sustainable future. Through this campaign, The World Energy Project will continue to implement solar panel systems in schools in the developing world, ensuring they have the energy needs to support a 21st century educational environment. Additionally, we will be doing more outreach to raise awareness among students here in the US. We will give interactive presentations on the issues of energy poverty and sustainability in US school districts, as well as facilitating a connection between schools here and abroad by allowing classrooms to communicate directly with one another via Skype to share stories, art, writing, culture, and more. This campaign will instill a sense of responsibility and empowerment, and serve as a stepping-stone toward establishing the collaborative relationships needed to achieve a sustainable future for all.
This April, one of our members, Casey Heier, was able to attend to the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, where The World Energy Project was one of 16 semi-finalists (out of more than 300 applicants from around the world) in a competition to get financial support. Although we did not make it to the final round, we feel more passionate about our campaign than ever. However, we cannot move forward without your help. We thank you already for everything you have done, whether it has been a previous donation, or just staying informed on what the World Energy Project is doing. As we move forward, would you please make a donation of $100, $50, or $25 to WEP? We cannot overstate the importance of donations, for without your contributions we cannot work to meet our goals. You can send a check to our parent organization, Global Partners in Hope, using the donation envelop enclosed, or you can donate online at www.globalpartnersinhope.com/donate. All donations are tax deductible. Please make sure and indicate that your donation is for The World Energy Project.
An educated society is a strong society, but an educated world is a loving one- a forgiving one- a compassionate, understanding, connected, and lasting world. That is exactly what we strive for and if you can find any way to help we would be much obliged.
The World Energy Project
Here is a written copy of my testimony against the Keystone XL pipeline at the State Department hearing in Grand Island, NE.
“My name is Casey Heier - I’m from Columbus, Nebraska and currently a student at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
There’s a lot of talk here today about how a wealthy, foreign corporation is disrespecting personal property rights and borders of any kind really – which I’m glad people are bringing up here because I think it is inherently un-American for some rich bully to claim they have the right to use your land whether you give consent or not.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’d like to draw attention to some other things that don’t respect borders or property lines. Things like the air we breathe or the water we drink. These things also do not respect human imposed borders. If water or air is polluted on one person’s land, everyone downstream and downwind becomes poisoned.
If the Keystone XL is built it WILL spill, simply based on sheer probability and statistics. America’s 2.5 million miles of pipelines suffer HUNDREDS of leaks and ruptures every year, and the underground Keystone XL will be carrying the most corrosive and toxic chemicals of any pipeline in the US. It’s not a question of “if“ it will leak, only of when, where and how much. A study by Dr. Stansbury, a UNL professor of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering showed the pipeline would result in 91 major spills over its lifetime; but as we’ve seen in Arkansas, it only takes 1 to make a disaster.
The construction of the Keystone XL will not create a long-term boost in local employment. It will only create enormous environmental catastrophes. Building the pipeline will exacerbate the already growing problem of climate change. Some of the effects of climate change hit us especially hard here in Nebraska. Last year’s drought took a huge toll on farmers and ranchers in the Midwest. Building the Keystone XL will only increase the frequency and severity of future droughts.
You yourselves at the state department have already concluded:
The greenhouse gas emissions from just the pipeline’s pumps would be roughly the same as the average emissions from one entire U.S. coal-fired power plant. If the Obama administration is as serious about climate change as the president touts in his speeches, then it could never allow this pipeline to be built.
People say we need this oil - that if we don’t use it china will, or someone will because the world needs it. That’s simply not true. We don’t need this oil, what we NEED, is to be investing in is the creation of a new energy infrastructure - one that is cleaner, safer and more efficient. This pipeline is not a step towards that; it is a vein of poison running straight through the heart of our country. We need it about as much as a heart attack.
Proponents of the pipeline like to claim that we are powerless to stop the tar sands from being used. Again, this is a sweeping statement that has little basis in reality, but there are some important facts to consider. Without the Keystone XL, the development of the Alberta tar sands will not expand at a reckless pace, millions of acres of forest will not be leveled, and the Ogallala Aquifer will not be threatened. If we are allowed some say, if we have some power in preventing the construction of this pipeline, then we also have the power to prevent all of the above.
There are some things we cannot change. Things like gravity, the speed of light, and our biological need for clean air, clean water and a habitable planet. Taking care of those last needs should be our top priority in an increasingly crowded and connected world. Other things like our economy, or the jobs we create, or our energy infrastructure – we can change and we must change them.
I grew up in rural Nebraska. I had the Loup River in my backyard and a clean freshwater lake in my front. As a kid I spent everyday fishing, hunting, swimming or just exploring anything and everything outside. I’ve grown to value the pristine condition of outdoor Nebraska and would fight to stop anything that would threaten to pollute it.
Nebraska will always be my home and I’ll soon be a proud graduate of the University of Nebraska, but in a few months I’ll be leaving. I’ll be pursuing my masters at Stanford University studying environmental engineering in their atmosphere/energy program. My time there will be focused on studying how we can move away from using dirty sources of energy such as these tar sands. How can we power our homes and fuel our cars in a cleaner way that doesn’t poison the water and land we all depend on. I will be working everyday to find energy solutions that will make the Keystone XL completely unnecessary and even more unattractive.
I’m doing everything I can to educate myself and speak out on these issues that I care most about; all I ask of you is to simply do your job, listen to the people here today, and reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Thank you.”
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The Clinton Global Initiative University is an incredible experience.
The conference aims to find the solutions to the world’s most pressing problems by bringing thousands of the world’s brightest students together for one weekend. This year, Washington University in St. Louis hosted the conference, and myself and two other World Energy Project members from UMass-Amherst, Chris Green and Moijue Douglas, were lucky enough to attend.
Needless to say, we were awed by the ways our peers are working to tackle big and challenging problems. Aseya Kakar, a student at Wartburg College in Iowa, introduced us to the manure digester she designed to produce biogas energy for an entire village in Swaziland. Another student, Kristin Duquette, wouldn’t let her wheelchair stop her telling anyone and everyone about her commitment to promoting disability rights as human rights through lived experience.
On the first day, my World Energy Project colleagues and I presented plans for our Cape Verde project and “Energy for Education” campaign. We plan on implementing a solar panel system at a Cape Verdean school just like in previous WEP projects, but then the “Energy for Education” adds even more. The campaign involves WEP members doing more outreach to raise awareness among students here in the US. We’ll give interactive presentations on the issues of energy poverty and sustainability in US schools, as well as facilitating a connection between American students and the Cape Verdean school by allowing classrooms to communicate directly with one another via Skype to share stories, art, writing, culture, experiences and more.
Before arriving at CGIU, we had submitted a lengthy proposal detailing our Cape Verde project and outcompeted over 300+ other student proposals from around the world to make it to the semi-finalist round of the Social Venture Challenge (SVC). The SVC is a competition for university students to propose solutions to pressing social issues around the world. The winners receive funding, mentorship and a global network of resources they need to implement their proposal. We spent the first two hours of CGI U making our case to the judges alongside the other semi-finalists. Unfortunately, we did not get selected as finalists to win the SRP seed money. But we did gain valuable feedback and will continue to receive ongoing support from their extensive network of social entrepreneurs. It was hard to be disappointed anyway because later that night, we watched Bill Clinton moderate a debate on social entrepreneurship.
On the second day of the conference, we attended different “skill sessions” involving a moderator and participants who were experts in their respective fields. My favorite was Powering the Future: Reimagining Electricity, which centered on how the world can meet future energy demand in the face of global warming and other environmental issues.
One of the participants, Evans Wadongo, founder and executive director of Sustainable Development for All-Kenya, was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 by the Schwab Foundation for his “Use Solar, Save Lives” campaign in rural Kenya. The solar lamp he invented has brought a portable light source to 100,000+ rural Kenyans who either had none, or previously used dirty and expensive kerosene lamps.
We were fortunate to talk with Evans about our work in Kapkemich, Kenya and ask him what he thought about The World Energy Project. He emphasized the need to work with the community to find solutions that meet the needs of its members. He stressed the importance of building relationships and empowering people to take control of their own future. Evans also encouraged us to keep pursuing our vision and thought we were on the right track to making a positive impact. However, one thing he said really stuck with me:
“A technical solution is only a small part of the larger social solution needed to bring about meaningful change.”
For the World Energy project to fully succeed, we need to do more than just simply install a system to provide power and train local people to maintain it. A larger part of our mission is to raise awareness about the issues of energy poverty and the need to empower developing communities with clean and renewable energy resources. Ultimately, we’re aiming to enact social change in order to discover and implement sustainable solutions to power the world.
Our Energy for Education initiative helps to plant the seeds needed to spark that social change. It aims to instill a sense of responsibility and capability amongst everyone involved. By connecting K-12 students in the United States with students abroad, we can help them understand who they’re helping as well as how and why the help is needed. They’ll see a Kenyan kid also loves to play soccer, listen to music, laugh with their friends and enjoy life just like them. By changing their perspective we’ve laid the foundation for these students to change the world for the better.
Now the best part: Saturday ended with Stephen Colbert. He filmed an episode of the Colbert Report and then interviewed Bill Clinton both in and out of his TV character while taking questions from all of us in the audience. I’ve watched his show for years, and it was an awesome experience to see him live.
Throughout the whole conference, there was a lot of attention given to the creation of non-profit organizations and what role they can play in solving global problems. I think it’s safe to say everyone at CGIU came to a similar collective conclusion: We all have to change the way we view charitable donations and the work of non-profits.
We don’t want to fund our cause by drumming up sympathy. Sympathy does not help fulfill our mission – it undermines it. We need empathy. We need
Solidarity rather than Charity
If the vision of the 1,000+ students at CGI U is to be realized, everyone needs to understand that it’s not “the poor” who need help; it’s another fellow human being –just like you and me.
Links for more info:
Kristin Duquette, “A Day in a Wheelchair”
Social Resolution Project
Casey Heier gave a presentation at The Beveridge Magnet Middle School for the Arts and International studies on October 26th. Getting our name out there is still very important in networking and finding supporters, especially with a younger audience “Hey Mom/Dad, I learned about renewable energy today at school!…” (Now THAT is a good day at school). This is our second presentation to an Omaha Public School, and we appreciate them giving us the opportunity to come talk to their students. Future presentations and collaborations with them, WEP, and Global Partners in Hope are in the process!
If you follow us on Tumblr be sure to check us out on:
Our Site: http://worldenergyproject.org
And as always keep spreading the word about The World Energy Project!
Tomorrow we will be giving a presentation about The World Energy Project at The Crestridge Magnet Center in Omaha! Omaha Public Schools has been kind enough to let us come speak to their students and faculty to let them know about how important renewable energy really is. It’s great to get these kind of ideas in the student’s heads at a young age so they think in a more global perspective from then on. If you know anyone or any place that is interested in letting us give a presentation be sure to let us know on here, Facebook, twitter, or Worldenergyproject.org
NEW LOGO! The World Energy Project had a meeting tonight as to what we have been up to and what we have planned in the near future. If you haven’t seen already, above is our new logo! We have all sorts of ideas as to what we could do with it to get the WEP name out there. For example, our different project locations may each correspond to a color, (Mali-orange, Kenya-Green) that way when talking about a certain project it can be differentiated by color. Let us know what you think. More info on events coming soon. Stay tuned.
This is the blog of The World Energy Project! Keep an eye out for more information on how you can get involved. We will be sending out weekly posts with testimonials, information about events, and ways you can make an impact. Thanks for stopping by and spread the word about WEP.