Anneliese (Ali) Schmidt and Ken Weaver joined blueEnergy in December of 2008. During their six-month volunteering period, the married couple served as community mediators within the village of Kahkabila, where blueEnergy had installed two renewable energy systems for the health center and classrooms. Of those six months, approximately half their time was spent in Bluefields doing preparatory work, working with other volunteers, and developing curricula for their trips to the community. The remainder of their time was divided into three separate extended stays in Kahkabila; during these trips, the couple helped with maintenance and repairs of the two on-site energy systems, as well as supporting various projects and capacity-building workshops initiated by blueEnergy. Their biggest draw to this particular volunteer assignment, however, was its open-ended nature. During their three months in the community, Ali and Ken also worked as secondary school teachers to help fill vacancies in the curricula (teaching geography, writing and science), taught night classes in formal English (utilizing the electricity from the blueEnergy system), worked with FADCANIC to help facilitate and build a Kahkabila tourism center, and conducted energy audits for various households after the village started receiving grid electricity in March 2009.
Since returning to the States, Ali and Ken relocated to Sonoma County, California, about an hour north of San Francisco. Ali returned to work with her previous employer, Antares Group, Inc., a renewable energy consulting company based in Maryland. Her expertise in solar PV and biomass technologies is typically put to use in large-scale feasibility studies for government agencies and commercial businesses. She’s currently working on a technical and economic assessment that will help coal power plant facilities that are considering switching to renewable biomass fuels such as wood and agricultural residues.
Ken helping to make bricks for the new
tourism center in Kahkabila ©Ali Schmidt
Ken also returned to work with his previous employer, New West Technologies, LLC, a renewable energy consulting company based in Colorado. He works part-time with the company, and both he and Ali work remotely from home together. Ken also writes professionally about craft beer, and writes fiction under the name K. M. Weaver. He is currently preparing a novel set in rural Nicaragua, which means he’s likely headed back at some point. His first freelance assignment will be appearing in the national publication All About Beer in early 2011. Ali, a semi-pro photographer, provided the photography for this article.
Ali and Ken recently crossed paths with blueEnergy once again for the organization’s annual fundraising gala in San Francisco, facilitating the beer donation and volunteering as bartenders for the event. They were surprised and happy to see a number of fellow bE alumni who also attended. They look forward to being involved with blueEnergy’s fundraisers and related events in the future.