Cami Boehme: Sun Plus One pays it forward for Guatemala, and I feel like I’m there, too.

CamiSunshineTour2

I live in the real world. Like many of you, I have a job and a family and a far-flung network of wonderful colleagues and friends. Like a small number of you, I’ve slept in modest dwellings in Ghana and Indonesia; in a cabin in the Amazon rainforest and in a tiny school in the mountains of Nicaragua. I’ve planted trees on six continents and picked up trash on all of them.  We’ve done it all together.

It’s been important to me to actually be there: extremely, deeply important. But I’m beginning to realize that some transferable joys—in particular, the kind of soul-satisfying happiness you can feel helping others—are not necessarily confined to the here and now. And sometimes a program takes on such a rich and vibrant life of its own that it really is like a child you send out into the world, allowing you to feel fulfilled through its accomplishments.  Our Sun Plus One* program is that “child” to me.  And what it’s going to do for Pal—a remote town in the Quiche province of Guatemala—takes my breath away.

Isolated, impoverished and still reeling from the effects of a 36-year civil war that left up to 200,000 people dead or missing, Pal is a town that has lost so much and doesn’t have the resources to rebuild. Agriculture and weaving give people a little income, but it’s often not enough cover the small cost of a bus into the next town, 11 miles away on a dirt road through the mountains. So when cell phones need charging—a precious lifeline to the outside world—the only way for most people to power them up is walk to town and back. That’s 22 steep and dusty miles just to charge a phone—on top of a day filled with heavy work.

And that heavy work isn’t just in the fields. The people of Pal make wood fires indoors to cook their meals. It gets the job done but irritates their eyes and lungs. They light their homes with candles—expensive but necessary. Most households can only afford to burn one a day. Imagine trying to do all the things families do in the evening—homework, chores, maybe even some games—all by the light of a single candle. Imagine trying to get ahead by doing some work in the evening. Imagine having big dreams, and wanting to study through the night.  How do you even begin to do that?

But all that is about to soon change. Together with our inspiring project partner, the rural advocacy organization Barefoot College, donations from Viridian’s Sun Plus One, will be providing the town of Pal with clean, affordable solar power. Barefoot College focuses on empowering women in rural villages, and it sees a big opportunity here: Along with the enormous benefits solar power brings to their families, it also brings the chance for them to weave at night and bring in more income. Imagine what a relief that must be, to finally have the power to make a difference.

That power is what Viridian is all about, and I feel so grateful to be part of it. So even though I won’t be there in Pal putting panels on people’s roofs—even though I won’t get to fall in love with the children and connect with their mamas, or make memories with some of you, I feel like my world has just gotten bigger. In my heart, it has. Every Viridian solar customer should feel that way, because every solar customer is part of this profound change we’re creating. Together, we are making a significant, positive, tangible difference in the world—a difference for men, women and children with names and faces and hopes and fears and dreams that now stand a better chance of coming true.

Shine on, everyone.

 

*Editor’s note: Viridian’s Sun Plus One initiative provides one solar power system to a community in need for every 15 Viridian solar customers. Read more about Sun Plus One here.