Solar Energy with a View
San Luis Chicoyou, Guatemala
The SUV shifts into low gear and climbs a steep hill with the green of Guatemala blanketing the hillsides. We park. At the top is a small cinder block building and inside are ten computers. Dulce is waiting to show us the Digital Community Center in San Luis Chicoyou.
Dulce is eighteen and runs the center for the community that is managed by a Women’s Leadership Committee. Installed in 2021, San Luis Chicoyou doesn’t have electricity so the center is powered by solar panels and batteries, Stellar IS.
The view is amazing.
However, I am a bit disappointed that the center is empty and it is just us, myself, and the New Sun Road Guatemala team. Then I hear the school on the next hill. Soon, children pour out of the building for recess – running, snacking and then they gather in the center. Boys, like a cluster of magnets, access a video – all watching and absorbing. A group of girls collect around another screen, quietly watching. This is a group activity here, social and familiar. I am told that they come after school to do homework. There is even a small robot that Dulce helps them program. But for now, it is just recess.
The bell rings and a kid from each group hangs back taking out a plastic bag with a few coins and some crumbled bills. They pay a Quezal for 20 minutes, about 13 cents, and rush off to join their classmates. They will likely be back later in the day and maybe some of the adults will come seeking information, a phone number or an address. Dulce will be here to help them but the rest of us must return to the regional center of Coban.
Maintaining, funding, and supporting these Digital Community Centers is not easy. All the things that go awry in our own communities happen here too and then some. But our Guatemala team is committed to working through issues, providing training, and creating bridges, especially for girls and young women. This is solar energy with a view to possibilities and creating options for a better future.
These centers were made possible by USAID-Microsoft Airband Initiative and USAID-MujerProspera, and in partnership with United Nations Women (UN Women), Mercy Corps, World Food Program (WFP), Plan International, the local municipality and Club Rotario Guatemala de la Asunción. Of the 20 Digital Community Centers operating in the Guatemalan highlands 75% are operationally sustainable. And we are committed to having 100% of the centers be self-sufficient. Do you have a project for Solar Energy with a View? Contact us.