It is easy to romanticize a life with limited connectivity: candles, campfires and conversations. And how creative of the Ugandans to keep their insulin floating in a ceramic pot buried in the dirt. But the reality is that the only difference between the boy in southwest Uganda and the boy in anytown, USA is one was born powerless, the other empowered at birth. The Oxford dictionary defines power as “the ability or capacity to do something.” It is how things get done.

Picture this: A tale of two babies - ONE.org

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Peace Corps Volunteer Allegra Panetto of Haworth, N.J., is working with a local health center in the eastern part of Malawi to power electricity in several of the health center’s rooms using solar energy. A portion of the funds for the project were raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) that helps fund Peace Corps Volunteer community projects worldwide.

"Each month, more than 60 infants are delivered at the health center. Half of these infants are delivered in the middle of the night, and because it only has lights in the labor ward and out-patient room, mothers’ pre-and post-delivery must wait in a room without electricity,” said Panetto, a Columbia University graduate. “Installing solar energy at the health center will better the lives of both the patients and staff.”

The health center serves more than 17,000 people in 35 villages near the shores of Lake Malawi. Prior to installing the solar panels in the health clinic, the staff will renovate the in-patient room and staff housing to prepare for the installation. In 2009, solar electricity was already installed in the out-patient room and labor ward.

"The sun’s power is the sustaining forces behind this project,” said Panetto, who has been working as a health Volunteer in Malawi since July 2010. “The area is a very hot and sunny, even during rainy season. The acquisition of electricity to the in-patient dorm will increase the capacity of patient attendants, nurses, and family members to care for patients – expectant or new mothers, or those suffering from life-threatening diseases.”

In order to receive funding through the PCPP, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline success indicators for the individual projects. This helps ensure community ownership and a greater chance of long-term sustainability.

Malawi Africa Peace Corps Partnership Program health solar energy babies maternal health infant health sustainable energy sustainability Peace Corps Peace Corps Volunteer host country nationals