Energy literacy program sheds a welcome educational light

Enbridge employees participate in an energy literacy workshop with kids in Peru.

Initiative adds to energy4everyone Foundation's existing outreach work

Most of us help our kids with homework in the evening under the warm glow of a kitchen light.

Imagine this same scenario in homes without electricity, where children study at night by battery, kerosene, or candlelight. Now, imagine how solar energy can change the lives of these kids – and the future of their community.

Light Up The World (LUTW) doesn’t have to imagine – because the Canadian non-profit organization, alongside the Enbridge-supported energy4everyone Foundation, has seen firsthand how kids benefit when their communities are outfitted with solar panels to provide electricity. Electric light greatly improves education, and education creates a more knowledgeable population that can work toward addressing the needs of their community.

Since 2009, energy4everyone has partnered with LUTW in Peru and Costa Rica, helping with training and the purchase of solar systems. Since then, the efforts have expanded to include the provision of Enbridge employee volunteers to help install some of those systems.

Now, thanks to support from energy4everyone and Enbridge employees, LUTW is expanding its work again to include a solar energy literacy program.

“The goal of the (literacy) program is basically to give communities greater awareness and exposure to what’s involved with this technology and see what the potential is . . . the different ways they can adapt it to their needs,” says LUTW executive director Christoph Schultz.

Supported by Enbridge and its employees, energy4everyone works with partners to improve access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable energy in the developing world. Just as it affects infant mortality rates and life expectancy rates, access to energy has a significant impact on adult literacy rates, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook publication.

Energy4everyone funded the literacy program, in part, with donations from Enbridge's Volunteers in Partnership (VIP) program, which provides grants to non-profits in situations where employees have volunteered 40 hours or more of service.

Now, thanks to support from energy4everyone and Enbridge employees, LUTW is expanding its work again to include a solar energy literacy program.

LUTW and energy4everyone conducted a pilot project last fall, when a group of Enbridge employees travelled to a small community high in the Andes Mountains of Peru to install solar panels in a number of households.

When the installations were complete, employees participated in an energy literacy workshop with children at the local elementary school, using games to transfer knowledge about how the solar systems work. The workshop included a skit — complete with props — to show how energy flows from the sun to a battery and lights in the house.

“The literacy program was one of the best days of our trip – a blend of fun and learning,” recalls Maryam Zahid, a Calgary-based offer management analyst with Enbridge, who played an active part in the workshop. “It was rewarding to see little kids talking about switches and bulbs among themselves. I really felt I made a difference that day.”

The literacy project’s expansion plans call for more advanced workshops directed at older kids and adults who are leaders or decision makers within their communities, given the widespread potential applications for solar power.

Education is “just a starting point. We’re working with communities who don’t have a lot of economic opportunities,” says Schultz.