Gofundme asked me to explain who I am:
As the daughter of a Liberian immigrant, Charlie Crawford, I grew up in the Bronx with my father's funny stories about village escapades. In highschool I made my first life-changing trip to Liberia and met my grandfather, Leh Leh Crawford, the village chief. While in college in the 1980's I was able to spend several months in my clan and deeply connected to the people and the Upper Guinea Rainforest. Back in the states I studied Rural Development and Regional Planning (Stanford and Cornell) to develop understanding and skills that I could bring to Liberia. However, war errupted and interrupted my plans to return. We anguished over the chaos, attrocities, and missing friends and relatives during the 14 year Liberian Civil War. My passion for Liberia became like the Langston Hughes Poem - A Dream Deffered. I focused on supporting sustainable agriculture and food justice in the US. I devoted myself to organizing and advocacy by grassroots people through my job at the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation as a way to express the values which my grandfather had nurtured within me. During a 2014/2015 Loeb Fellowship, I recommitted to immersing myself in Liberia's future as she survived the terrifying scurge of Ebola - largely through the efforts of grassroots people.
My brother, Leh Leh, is trained to do large-scale solar installations. My Liberian "solar sister" Janga works at Lofa County Community College and she contacted us with the idea of helping the rural college reduce its energy costs by switching from expensive diesel to solar. Together with the Provost we worked throughout 2017 to develop the concept that the college should not only develop solar for its own use, but also train technicians, and seed interest in establishing a cooperatively owned utility. When we realized that technical trades are so male dominated, our plan to focus on involving and training women really began to take shape. This trip is the launch, with a small scale-hands-on installation. We will also engage in consultations and planning with women's organizations and community stakeholders.
Gofundme asked to explain how the money you are donating will be used and will get to the recipients:
I am traveling to Liberia on Tuesday Feb. 6th, arriving on the 7th. My husband will wire the funds to me by Feb. 13th. There are several Liberian solar vendors in Monrovia. The funds raised will be used as follows:
- purchase of the 3 to 5kW solar system (array, battery, inverter), depending upon amount raised
- purchase of a small portable solar charging system (which will be left with the college) to ensure we can charge video camera, phones and lap top to document activities
- purchase of cement to secure the installation
- transportation of system from Monrovia to Voinjama
- payment for skilled Liberian electrician
My expectation is that costs will exceed what we raise and that my brother and I will supplement out of pocket. However, if there is any balance remaining, we will establish an account for Liberian Solar Power Sisters for future work. This is an ongoing, long-term project for which I intend to fundraise from foundations upon my return. Ultimately, we want to see an aggressive recruiting program and scholarships to support women who enroll in the solar technician training program. Longer term, we hope to see development of a micro-grid for the City of Voinjama.
My brother and I are paying our own airfare, lodging and meals. What you donate will go 100% towards the solar installation and solar capacity building for LCCC!
Its installation will help launch the college's new training program for solar technicians. The solar technician training program will recruit students, at least half of whom will be women, and increase their capacity to be a part of the renewable energy workforce. Globally, women are under-represented in energy-related jobs, and this project is part of the movement for climate justice and gender equity.
LCCC is located in Voinjama City, 240 miles from Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Voinjama's 27,000 residents live without access to an energy grid. Individuals and institutions with enough money rely on expensive, polluting, and unreliable diesel fuel generators. Achieving affordable solar access will mean that at night students can do homework, women can run their micro-businesses, and mothers can give birth with reliable light. It will mean less indoor and outdoor pollution and new economic opportunities.
This project is part of a vision of sustainable, rural development, where engery comes from abundant sunlight, and is grounded in gender equity and grassroots, cooperative development. The installation will be a focal point for a planning process that will reach beyond the college to engage local womens' organzations, and other community stakeholders to plan and co-create a solar micro-grid.
This January, Liberia experienced a democratic handover of power from Africa's first female president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Surviving the devastation of Ebola and before that, a fourteen-year civil war, has made the need to invest in Liberia's people and community-controlled facilities abundantly clear. Investing in the technical and governance capacity of local people to operate and manage solar off-grid and micro-grid energy systems will build a foundation for sustainable and resilient, indigenous development.
Thank you for your generosity and support, which will help to purchase and transport the system.
We look forward to keeping you updated along the way.
Janga Mezzeh Gray
Leh Leh Crawford
Lofa County Community College