by Sister Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN
In 2005, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) entered into a marvelous venture to bring life and light to people and communities in Africa. Through the African Photovoltaic Project (APP), the leadership with the membership in our religious Congregation has given a serious commitment to action for equal access to information and communication for all our Sisters throughout the world. In researching this
possibility, it became evident to the congregational finance staff, charged with pursuing this issue, that there were more serious implications to this commitment. Especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, lack of any infrastructure was a challenge for accessing power for electricity, water purification and technology for communications. Research highlighted the ministries and communities in places deprived of bare necessities for life sustenance. Providing an infrastructure for stable and reliable electricity became a major goal.
We found an electrical engineer, Louis Casey who was drawn to the mission and capable of creating systems that would meet the needs. With some funding and leadership approval, Louis tested the system of solar panels with storage batteries in a prototype of a system, built at Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center in Ipswich, MA and it worked successfully! This prototype resulted in the emergence of the APP as it exists today.
Current & New
Today the APP, also called the Power of the Sun Project, provides access to electricity, water purification systems and technology for communications in four sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in five sites in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the Sisters have two full systems now, the first at Fugar (2006) at the Postulate house where new members enter the Congregation and the second system at Awkunanaw where there are two flourishing Notre Dame schools. Also, we have installed solar panels for power and lighting at the community houses in Abuja, Enugu, and Ilorin. The Sisters are grateful to the Congregation for providing life and light to their ministries and
communities in these places. They realize that the generosity of those supporting the APP is protecting the environment from the old generator’ carbon emissions, providing power for refrigeration and cooling and the use of technology for research, study, development and communications with the wider world. We are now expanding the project in Nigeria to add another site in Oro. The workmen are making progress in installing the solar panels with battery storage, in a project for new life for the Sisters serving in ministries in surrounding areas.
In the Congo, the APP is already bringing power in full systems to schools, clinics, hospitals and communities at the first site in Ngidinga (2008) and added sites in Lemfu, Kitenda, Pelende (2010). Since our Congregation is supporting sustainable human development with the Photovoltaic System working well in the school, hospital and clinic
in Ngidinga, the Belgian Technical Corporation, a public service provider supporting developing countries as an agency of the Belgian Government, decided to fund the existing system at our first site. This Belgian firm has improved the hospital with new sanitation, a new kitchen and upgraded laboratories as part of an expansion of medical services
for the people. Our Congregation also is upgrading and doubling the Ngidinga system and replacing the water pumping system. We are using donations from our PUR Water Project to fund this water system.
The Power of the Sun, will soon be reaching new sites in the Congo. Currently, solar panels, battery packs for storage of energy and water purification systems are en route in shipping containers to the Congo for installations in upcoming months at three new sites in Kinsaku, Mpese and Nselo, as well as at Ngidinga. We expect the construction of these new systems to be completed by the end of 2016.
Success in Sustainability
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur know that, only with the support of so many people does the African Photovoltaic Project continue to be successful in providing life and light to multiple African communities. In these eleven years, Sr. Leonore Coan, Director of the Mission Support with the assistance of many SNDdeN provinces and many generous donors has received over $4,000,000 for this project. The Congregation has spent over $3,000,000 while reserving the remaining million dollars for the third upgrade, currently in process.
An idea which evolved from a mandate at the 2002 General Chapter for equal access to information and communication through technology grew into a major miracle for sustainable life for the Sisters, their ministries, communities and the people in two developing countries where the Sisters of Notre Dame live and serve. From the beginning, the Sisters have been involving the local communities in the installation and maintenance of the systems to insure the ongoing viability of the systems. Louis Casey who designed the system continues to consult the Sisters on their preferences for installation of the systems.
Gratitude for Support
Many readers of Good Works have shown tangible interest and support in sending donations to help fund this project. This article attempts to give a progress report on the current status of the project, to show how the support and contributions of so many donors have enabled the growth and development and to thank all contributors for success of the APP in bringing light and life to the people in two African countries. We, SNDdeN, offer gratitude in prayer for all who have made this project a success for many people.
Reprinted with permission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Life & Light in New Sites,” by Sister Lorraine Connell SNDdeN, Good Works, March 2016, pp. 4-7.