Category Archives: African Photovoltaic Project

Ohio Province Promotes Congregational Projects

Karen Hadden and Angie Weisgerber,
Associate Director and Assistant Director of Development

smndphtovoltaic-1385_hdr-300px-webThe Ohio Province has initiated an educational project at Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati, Ohio,  on the property at East Columbia Avenue. In an unused garage, solar panels and batteries have been installed for a Photovoltaic Learning Lab Project as part of an engineering experiment for two Notre Dame schools — Mount Notre Dame High School, an all girls school located next to the convent grounds in Cincinnati, OH, and Chaminade Julienne High School, a co-ed school located in Dayton, OH. In collaboration with Mr. Louis Casey, an engineer who coordinates the African Photovoltaic Project (APP) with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur internationally, the Development Office of the Ohio Province began a forward-looking initiative to connect with international efforts for collaboration, education and fund-raising. Students learn multiple aspects about conserving energy and the benefits of solar power through an experimental solar model. Solar panels on the convent garage convert the energy from the sun and store this solar power in batteries.

Keith Hanley, Learning Lab Volunteer Project Engineer, meets with Sr. Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN to learn about the success and expansion of the African Photovoltaic Project in the sites where Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur serve in ministry.

This system is similar to the photovoltaic system which the Sisters are using to bring electricity and a water purification system to schools, hospitals and convents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.

Photovoltaic Prototypes
In 2005, the Sisters set up a photovoltaic prototype at the Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center in Ipswich, MA to test the viability of this project for the ministries and communities of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) in Africa. This prototype in the pre-school and arts center proved to be a successful venture for installations in the Congo and Nigeria. With the help of generous donors, the SNDdeN Congregation moved forward with installations first for a community in Fugar and for the schools in Awkunanaw, Nigeria (later for communities in Abuja, Enugu, Illorin and Oro). Then, through 10 years, the Photovoltaic sites expanded in the Congo, first in Ngidinga, and then in Lemfu, Kitenda, Pelende, Kinsaku, Mpese, and Nselo.  These installations have been providing electricity, water purification and technology access to ministries and communities, from 2006 to the present.

Education through Experimentation

Mount Notre Dame High School engineering students working on an experiment in the Learning Lab.

In some ways, the Ohio Province project is another prototype for education and experimentation for students and faculty in a few schools in Ohio and Illinois. The Photovoltaic Learning Laboratory in Cincinnati is a teaching center where students learn about energy as well as about the work of the Sisters in communities and ministries in Africa. During January and February 2017, engineering students conducted experiments for understanding power grids, in order to determine the length of time for the batteries to drain and be restored in tracking the lighting on the power grid. Students from Mount Notre Dame and Chaminade Julienne High Schools are collaborating on this experiment.  Students monitor the output, input, recharging of batteries, and track time, weather conditions and temperature. Students collect, record and summarize the data.  They will present a formal report at the Science Exposition at the University of Cincinnati in March 2017.  They understand the importance of this experiment and the ongoing and lasting effects of a photovoltaic system for supplying electricity and for purifying water.  They realize the impact that this system is already effecting in many sites where the Sisters of Notre Dame live and serve in the Congo and in Nigeria. This learning experience is a way for the faculty and staff in Notre Dame schools in the Ohio Province to understand how the Sisters are contributing to the lives and progress of the people in Africa.  It is an opportunity for them to contribute to the work of the Sisters for sustainability of life for the people in underdeveloped countries and to extend these efforts in the future. Students are experiencing a real connection with the Mission of the Sisters, as they realize the impact of this project begun by the Sisters in 2005 and continuing with success until today!

Lenten Water Project
Students in Notre Dame schools throughout the Ohio Province participate also in the Lenten Water project. Schools support this global outreach program of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur by raising funds for water purification packets from Proctor and Gamble’s non-profit foundation, Children’s Safe Drinking Water, to be distributed for water purification in communities and ministries in Africa and Latin America. These packets purify the water and supply drinking water to towns and villages that would otherwise be deprived of clean water.  The children in our schools show how much they want to help children in other parts of the Globe.

Sister Ann Fanella, SNDdeN tells about a 4th grade student in Chicago:

 Sr. Ann: Last year a young girl approached me in church with a container of money she had collected during Lent.

Child: Is this going to help someone?

Sr. Ann: Yes! You will help so many people.

Child: (jumping up and down) I am so happy I can help other children.

Since the Ohio Province started this program in 2011, 45 schools have contributed over $140,000 to pay for these water packets, distributed to different Notre Dame sites in the Southern Hemisphere. During Lent 2017, schools in Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, OH; Phoenix, AZ and throughout the United States will contribute to the Clean Water Project, promoted by the Congregational Mission Office in Ipswich, MA.

See the Lenten Project on the homepage of the international Website: and read the next article by Sr. Evalyne Aseyo, SNDdeN in Kenya.



Life & Light in New Sites

by Sister Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN

Sr. Yerin Patricia Andakuro, SNDdeN helps workmen, installing solar panels for a new system in Oro, Nigeria.

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.

Nigeria Sites
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

Sr. Teresa Anyabuike
Sr. Teresa Anyabuike views the new installation of batteries in Oro, Nigeria.

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.

Congo Sites
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

Sr. Esther Tomba and the children say “thank you” for life and light in Kitenda.

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.

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