An energy crisis in Haiti has developed due to a high dependency on charcoal and an extremely damaged electricity sector. These challenges result in a lack of affordable and reliable electricity for Haitian businesses and individuals alike.

A Student-Led Initiative

In the summer of 2015, three students attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to establish a computer center at Le Villages des Petits Princes School.

The students ran a six-week computer literacy program at the center, teaching basic computer skills to Haitian youth from the surrounding area of Port-au-Prince. The youth participating in the program, ages 11-20, worked in pairs to learn how to use applications such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

52 Haitian youth participated in the program last year. Currently, the computer center serves over 300 people and sustains 20 open office hours a week.

Troubles with the Center

Over the past year, complications in powering the computer center have come to light.

According to the World Bank, less than 38 percent of the Haitian population has access to electricity. Furthermore, users in Port-au-Prince who do have access to electricity only have an average of 10 hours of service per day available.

This energy crisis in Haiti leads households, schools and businesses to install costly and environmentally detrimental generators, such as the gas-powered generator used to operate the computer center at Le Villages des Petits Princes School.

Simply running the computer center requires 60 gallons of gas per month, costing nearly $240.

In order to combat complications of the energy crisis in Haiti, the Lewis and Clark students are partnering with Enersa, Haiti’s first and only designer and manufacturer of solar panels and solar appliances.

Student Creators Maintaining the Program

The Portland students are returning to Port-au-Prince in July 2016 to educate the community on renewable energy and help Enersa train locals as solar power technicians, in order to maintain the installed panels. The installed solar panels will sufficiently provide electricity for the computer center in addition to other classroom facilities at the school.

Interestingly, Valcourt Honore, one of the three Lewis and Clark students, grew up in a town within the surrounding area of Port-au-Prince.

In a program overview written by the students Honore stated, “Growing up in Carrefour-feuilles, I feel so grateful, fortunate and proud to make a difference in this neighborhood. It is such a great feeling to impact my friends’ life in a way that they have never expected; I am very grateful to have that opportunity.”

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr