Haiti Posts

Introducing our country managers in 2021

Posted Wednesday 21 April 2021 by Auriina Korhonen.

As we continue to grow and to expand our work in new locations, and find new pathways to create impact, the development of solid teams in our field operations becomes more and more vital. We recently wrote about our ongoing work in Kenya, where our great team is introducing the Lytefire 5 oven to Kisumu through weekly solar baking demos.

Today, we would like to introduce to you our country managers from our key operational countries, and let them share some of their thoughts on the significance of our efforts.

Makenson Mérisca, Haiti

Makenson Merisca is joining us as a country manager for Haiti. He has long-term experience working with several different developmental foundations and programmes in Haiti especially in relation to child welfare and education. Makenson sees being a part of the SFCO team as a chance to work towards the preservation of our natural world, and his personal goal is to see Lytefire technology in widespread use in Haiti. He currently lives in Port-au-Prince with his wife and three children.

Makenson was recommended to us by the one and only Louino Robillard, a pillar of the community in Cité Soleil who Lorin met years ago while staying at and working alongside Haiti Communitere.

Makenson is a young family man with a variety of experience from heavy trucking to NGO support services. His family comes from a region of Haiti where there are some of the last forests in Haiti. Makenson wants to introduce Lytefire tech there because he says people often cut down their trees (sometimes even mango or avocado trees!) to sell to the bakery to burn to bake bread. There’s always a line up outside the bakery, so it seems like there’s a real chance to safeguard Haiti’s precious forests so that Maken’s kids can also enjoy them when they grow up.

Martin Pouabidjie, Burkina Faso

The project with Remar gave us the chance to start building a team here in Burkina Faso, and while we were cooking one day, Martin walked up and was already full of ideas. Full of confidence and not afraid to get his hands dirty, Martin has proven to a hard worker who is willing to learn. Our mutual goal is to deliver more and more trainings to associations and small groups who can use Burkina’s abundant sunshine to generate income while protecting the environment.

Martin is one of six children, and he has worked as a salesperson and coordinator-trainer in a family association, after which he has acquired work experience in team leadership, sales, and marketing. He has studied literature, sociology and project management, with the specific goal of being able to carry out projects of his own. Martin is a father to a four year-old daughter and in his free time he enjoys cinema and football.

For the past two weeks, Martin has been on the ground with the Women of Goghin overseeing the implementation of our entrepreneurship education and bakery training packages. As part of our follow-up with them, Martin will help them to develop and market their products so they can increase the earnings of their women’s cooperative.

Joan Arwa Ogwang, Kenya

Joan Arwa Ogwang is a Kenyan, with a (MA) from Maseno University. With more than 13 years of experience as a regional manager at Capital Airtime Limited (Kisumu), she is a three time winner of the Safaricom regional awards. She has also been a real estate manager for over 15 years, a part-time lecturer at Maseno University’s communication department, as well as a successful entrepreneur with 10 years of experience.

Joan’s motivation is to positively change lives by helping people generate money to be able to afford a decent life. Her personal view is that Solar Fire machines are remarkable since everyone who experiences them are in disbelief of the amount of heat solar light can generate, and that fuels her motivation. With our local technician, Jared Omondi, they are promoting the solar oven through local population.

Solar baking in Haiti with Remar

Posted Monday 25 January 2021 by Lorin Symington.

Next up in our series of engagements with the amazing NGO Remar, I visited Haiti in order to install a baking oven on the roof of the orphanage that Remar is running in the Tabarre neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince.

The last time I was in Haiti was in 2014 to build our Lytefire4 in collaboration with Haiti Communitere. It was a quick visit, just long enough to reacquaint myself with my main man Mackenson, buy materials, build the concentrator, cook some delicious food with the help of Fabienne (watch her going solar here), and then get back to Canada. Unfortunately we had no one who, at the time, was able to manage the project long term.

Happily, this has now changed. I reached out to a young man I met while I was in Haiti in 2012 who left a lasting impression. Louino Robillard is a powerful young community organizer deeply involved in Cité Soleil, the roughest neighborhood in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Right now he’s running the Konbit Bibliyotek Cité Soleil.

I reached out to Robi and asked him if he knew anyone who could help me get the project started in Haiti before I arrived in Nov. 2020. I told him this person needs to be good at communicating, well organized and if not already experienced with metal fabrication, at least experienced with working for NGO type projects. He gave me the contact info for one Makenson Merisca and after a 30min video call, I knew I had found my project manager in Haiti.

Makenson is a young family man, humble, quick to laugh and has worked a number of jobs that have prepared him to be our Solar Fire representative in Haiti. He’s worked with a number of my friends and colleagues and has been a licensed heavy truck driver for a number of years. He was filled with questions and already had in mind a number of potential clients. Mak is from Foret des Pins, some of the last forest in Haiti and he knows how important it is to preserve the trees for his children and Haiti’s future.

The Remar orphanage is taking care of about 20 young boys, providing a safe space for them to grow, learn and play. The orphanage is in a nice big sprawling house in Tabarre, not far from Doctors Without Borders. There are solar panels on the roof, clothes drying lines, friendly teachers, some very vocal dogs and a lovely young woman named Antonia who is one of the primary caregivers and who will be the resident baker-in-chief. The goal of the project is to enable them to bake bread and treats for the household and also bake bread, cookies and bonbon sirop (a local muffin like treat) for the neighbourhood and bring in a little extra money to the orphanage. No trees shading our Lytefire up there on the roof, but with tropical storms in mind we knew we would have to make a few structural changes to the Lytefire design in order to quickly and easily be able to lay it out flat and strap it down to avoid the worst of the wind.

Makenson dove right into finding all the materials needed to build the Lytefire5 and finding a workshop where we could build it. Luckily enough, one of his neighbors runs Haiti Energy Mixte, a renewable energy education and product sales company. Romane is a jovial Rhasta who grew up in Germany but who has been living in Haiti for most of his life. Trained as an engineer in Germany, he’s using his skills to teach about and install renewable energy systems in Haiti. He’s experienced with wind, photovoltaic and a wide variety of solar concentrators.

After my (much needed) 2 weeks rest / self isolation (I had, after all, traveled from Burkina Faso and spent 44 hours in planes, trains, airports and automobiles) we got to work. It brought me no end of joy that we managed to reconnect with Mackenson from my earlier visits to Haiti and Mackenson was our primary welder while we built the Lytefire5 for Remar.

Haiti is a challenging place to operate. The security situation is even worse than when I was there in 2012 with gang violence and kidnappings at all time highs. Luckily, Makenson knows his way around the streets and peeps, so, I think largely thanks to him, I never had any issues. I got a little apartment 10 minutes from the workshop, we bought all the materials and we got to work cutting, drilling, tapping and welding.

With a good project manager and workshop partner in place I took care to train Makenson (who despite not having much experience in the metal fab shop proved quite adept and eager to learn), Mackenson and Romane because the ideal outcome would be that they would be able to continue doing installations and delivering projects in my absence as the newest Solar Fire country office. It looks like this will become a reality thanks to Makenson’s ambition and network… keep your fingers crossed!

After a more than a few generator breakdowns and tool problems, we finished a beautiful Lytefire5!

Romane was especially interested in the operation of it since he had trained on a variety of other solar concentrators which he confided to me were extremely complex *coughschefflercough* and not particularly well adapted to developing world context.

We ran a quick hands on technological training session on how to install or replace mirrors and how to calibrate the focal point. I was extremely happy with the speed at which Remar’s staff were able to pick up the needed skills (especially Antonia!) and I barely had to instruct Makenson or Romane at all... they both picked up focal point calibration like they were born to do it.

As luck would have it, my baker friend Fabienne, who you might remember baked some pretty epic pineapple upside-down cake on the L4 back in 2014 was available to train Remar people in the finer points of pastry and bread baking.

For a few days we baked bread and cake and took pics and made videos while enjoying the sunshine on the roof. As usual, people were very impressed by the power of the Lytefire5. Fabienne was particularly impressed saying that it baked faster and more evenly than some of the ovens she had used while working at hotels - high praise indeed!

Haiti is near to my heart, and despite the difficulties of operating in the country, I know that we will have great success there because we have a team of true believers who are doing everything they can to ensure that the country has a prosperous and sustainable future. We all hope to play a significant part in connecting Haiti to the riches of the sun and making this proud nation once again a shining pearl of sustainability in the Caribbean.

Mackenson’s Solar Pizza

Posted Tuesday 9 June 2015 by Lorin Symington.

Mackenson, the first GoSol.org technician in Haiti is back on the GoSol.org blog with a message to all our viewers and potential supporters: "Ansanm, ansanm nap rive pi lwen".

When I asked Mackenson if we should make pizza his eyes lit up. He rarely gets the chance to eat pizza, since running a traditional pizza oven costs so much in fuel that only fancy uptown restaurants seem to operate them.

Could a solar powered pizzeria operate profitably in his neighborhood? There’s only one way to find out: with your support on the FreeTheSun campaign and enthusiastic entrepreneurs like Mackenson.

Watch the video and hear Mackenson talk about the importance of GoSol.org technology for him, his family and for Haiti.

Baking Cake in Haiti

Posted Thursday 14 May 2015 by Lorin Symington.

We met Fabienne Dorlean through Robillard Louino, a young leader from Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She’s a graduate from a hotelery program and a very capable young baker. She is really excited about solar baking, and says that gas-fired baking ovens are expensive to buy and expensive to operate.

Baking Experiments in Haiti

Posted Friday 20 March 2015 by Lorin Symington.

Here, our budding entrepreneurs Mackenson and Island are preparing more treats in the 3m2 solar oven on the roof of Haiti Communitere, in Port-au-Prince Haiti.

Everyone is really excited to create a business selling healthy food and earning extra $ by saving on fuel.

In the pictures below they’re cooking a popular street food Pate Ayisyen (Haitian Patties).

Mackenson Has Seen the Future, the Future is GoSol!

Posted Wednesday 25 February 2015 by Lorin Symington.

Meet Mackenson, the first GoSol.org technician in Haiti and a dear friend of mine. He’s a good man with a kind heart who has lived a difficult life. He dreams of a better future for his children, and for his country. Mackenson is skilled and inspiring like so many potential entrepreneurs all over the world. We are working with him to create a sustainable, solar based business that he can operate himself.

Mackenson and Guerline baking at Haiti Communitere

Posted Friday 16 January 2015 by Lorin Symington.

Yesterday Mackenson and Guerline baked up some delicious goodies for the fine people at Haiti Communitere.

Mackenson has been experimenting and making improvements to the oven and now it maxes out the thermometer at 200°C after an hour of operation starting at 10am.

We’re really excited to see what sort of products our technician and bakers come up with and how people will react to knowing that they are eating charcoal-free treats!

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