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blueEnergy Executive Director, Mathias Craig accepted to the 2012-2013 Fulbright NEXUS Scholar Program

blueEnergy is pleased to announce that Co-Founder and Executive Director, Mathias Craig, has been selected for the Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research (NEXUS) Scholar Program.

Mathias joins a network of junior scholars, professionals and mid-career applied researchers from the United States and other Western Hemisphere nations participating in the year-long program that includes multi-disciplinary, team-based research, a series of three seminar meetings and a Fulbright exchange experience. The Fulbright NEXUS Program provides a platform for scholars from across the region to engage in collaborative thinking, analysis, problem-solving and multi-disciplinary research in one of three inter-related topics: Science, Technology and Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainable Energy.

Mathias’ research will examine how the global target of universal energy access by 2030 established by the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All initiative can be harmonized with local development priorities on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua to produce meaningful, desirable and sustainable results. He will examine local perspectives on energy access, the barriers to expanding energy access in this particularly challenging context and potential actions that could enable expansion of energy access while providing other desirable benefits. Mathias will also examine the interrelationships between communication networks, mobile payment systems and energy access as part of this study. Mathias will fundamentally seek to answer the question – can the global goal of universal energy access be implemented on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua in a way that supports local development priorities?  If so, how can this be done in the most cost-effective, low-carbon, economically stimulating manner?

Mathias’ research will take him to Bluefields, where he will spend three months working and researching. His wife, Lorelei and son, Damien, will join him. 
Mathias, Lorelei and Damien

For more information please check out the Fulbright NEXUS Scholar Blog.


Give the Gift of Light!

Rocky Point is a poor isolated creole farming community of sixty families situated between the villages of Kukra Hill and Pearl Lagoon on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Power lines follow a dirt road that cuts through the community on the way to Pearl Lagoon, but no electricity is available in Rocky Point. It is too expensive to build the local electricity infrastructure. Rocky Point families are left in the dark.

blueEnergy works to bring solar installations to families living in Rocky Point so that they may benefit from the possibilities associated with electricity. Each family contributes to the installation and attends trainings to learn how to operate their home system.

Mr. Pelmon and his family live in Rocky Point. They are devoted, very devoted, to their faith. They do not have much else to cling to aside from the small shack that houses the family. A cooking pot and a machete are their most valuable possessions. There is no running water, they have no bathroom and until recently, they lived completely in the dark.

"The work that you come and do here, we have been thankful for it.” Mr. Pelmon tells blueEnergy. "My wife bakes bread and she can work in the night here. If it wasn't for your goodness we wouldn't have that light work in the night."

In May of 2012 Mr. Pelmon and his family received a solar panel system from blueEnergy. They now live without the threat of open flames from candles and gas-burning lamps. Light has opened the opportunity for the family to earn extra income baking bread after the daily farm chores are complete. And most importantly for Mr. Pelmon, this light allows him to gather with his family in the early morning and eveningto sing from the old hand-me-down hymnbook.

Give the Gift of Light and help blueEnergy provide 10 more home solar installations to families in Rocky Point just like Mr. Pelmons' - that will otherwise live in the dark.

Double your impact! Your new or increased gift (over last year) will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $20,000 by the Edgerton Foundation.


Community Diagnostic: La Virgen

By Casey Callais -- The community of La Virgen sits tight against Lake Nicaragua. The breezy community of 3,000 is only about six miles from Rivas, the largest city in the area. But as blueEnergy discovered, they are still a long way from having basic services such as running water and electricity.
Rural farmworkers on their daily commute
Over a period of five days, blueEnergy worked with the community of La Virgen, performing diagnostics to determine community development needs. blueEnergy also worked with community members in assessing what types of projects could be useful in assisting the community in realizing and reaching their aspirations. Elvin Guzman, blueEnergy's Planning Director and Community Diagnostic Specialist, led the effort, which brought together over 300 families from both urban and rural community sectors.
Elvin explaining the diagnostic to a group of women and children
Through the diagnostic, blueEnergy was able to identify the weaknesses that have hindered community development and explore lines of opportunity like tourism. Men, women and children came together to draw maps of their neighborhoods, discuss economic conditions, availability of basic services, and what challenges local farmers and businesses face on a day to day basis. This information will not only serve blueEnergy in determining need, but a complete community development plan will also be constructed and given to the village leaders.
Community members explaining their ideas
The blueNews will maintain updates on this project as it develops. 


8 Day's Journey for Light

By Chris Sparadeo -- The other day there was a knock on the office door. In walked an old Rama Indian man, clutching a handheld lamp and a small solar panel. His knee-high rubber boots left a trail of hardened mud as entered the room. With a wizened smile he tipped his cowboy hat and sat down in a chair pressed against the back wall, quietly waiting with arms folded neatly on his lap. Jorge, an electrical engineer, returned the man’s greeting with a cockeyed smile and a corresponding head nod. After a few minutes of courteous preliminary dialogue, it was decided that neither party spoke the others language. Jorge, noticing that I was snooping in on the well-intentioned discourse, waved me over to make sense of the encounter. The man spoke Rama-Kriol, but his lack of teeth and somewhat droopy facial expressions made it difficult to extract his every word. Sistel was his name.

It turns out that, at the age of 72 (I would have calculated 85) Sistel had paddled his way down the Kukra River to Bluefields in a four-day canoe voyage from his small inland community of Sumu Kaat. He had received a solar powered “D-Light” lamp form blueEnergy four years ago and for some reason or another it stopped working. The way he talked about his lamp was strangely similar to the way a person might talk about a sick pet. He lowered his voice, shaking his head side to side while gently stroking the lamp as he explained to me that he missed how his lamp used to work. After running a quick diagnostic on the light we found out that an internal wire failure had caused the solar panel to “humbug up." A quick fix. We tested the newly mended light and when he turned it on, Sistel’s eyes nearly beamed brighter than the blinding LED bulb. We took his picture (which we gave him), thanked him for his dedicated travels, shook hands and sent him on his way. He walked out of the office all but skipping.

It’s people like Sistel who remind me how important energy is in our lives. To many people in the first world, Sistel’s light is just a commodity brought along for camping trips, often forgotten at home. For Sistel, it is something worth eight days of paddling up and down a river. It is something that opens a world of opportunities for life after the sun sets and before it rises again. On the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, it is indeed the small things that matter most.

Sistel Saloman, Rama Indian from Sumu Kaat village deep in the Kukra river


OXFAM Training: Disaster Mitigation

By Casey Callais -- What would you do if a major earthquake struck your area? What kind of preparedness checklist would you follow in case of a pending disaster like a hurricane? Imagine yourself in that kind of situation but faced with the compounded difficulties of working and living in rural Nicaragua, where there is no store to buy batteries or bottled water, no food handouts from relief agencies, and the leaf roof that once covered your home has blown away, and you are left with nothing.

Two blueEnergy staff recently attended a disaster-preparedness workshop held by OXFAM in Managua. "We are not ready," said Jean-Baptist from the Managua office. "It would take double our labor levels to prepare ourselves adequately."
JB and Rickey from blueEnergy work with OXFAM

This is a difficult realization to accept but useful to address, and thanks to OXFAM,  blueEnergy now has a much better idea of the challenges that the organization could face if a disaster strikes. The workshop focused in large part on disaster preparedness in regards to water sanitation and hygiene. The Coordinator for the blueEnergy Water and Sanitation Team, Rickey Monroe, took note of how to best adapt blueEnergy's water and sanitation program to the challenges and needs of a possible disaster.

More than likely blueEnergy would have to put all current projects on hold and shift resources to organizing and training communities in the techniques taught in the workshop. blueEnergy would also help facilitate logistics for other relief organizations arriving into the area. blueEnergy has expansive local knowledge of the area, including location of fresh water sources (wells and their depths, families that have them, sanitary conditions, etc), and we could assist first responders and other aid groups in their work to secure one of the most important aspects of survival: clean drinking water.
The situation "Before | During | After" a disaster
Our fingers are crossed that we never have to pull these plans out and execute them, but we are now more confident in our ability to step in and assist should the need arise.


Our Land, Our Future

For anyone interested in learning about the environmental and cultural struggles of people on the coast, check out both of these videos.

The first one is an animation of the proposed deep water port in Monkey Point. The second is a link to a short documentary about the impact that project would have as told by local residents and activists for the region.