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Solar Scholars Training Program Goes to Marabut

It was a lovely sunny day by the beach.  All the drowsiness from the early morning trip from Tacloban to Marabut were wiped off by the beautiful view of the rock formations, islets resembling Coron’s, and the waves that roll in from the Leyte Gulf.

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Solar Scholars setting up the RE-Charge TekPaks by the shores of Marabut.

The limestone walls were calling out to us “climb me!” since it has been days since I last touched the holds of our local climbing gym, just before I started to busy myself to prepare for the Solar Scholars training. Back to reality at the training venue, we were greeted by the smiles of our beautiful lady scholars from Basey and Marabut ready for the days’ undertakings.

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On our way to the limestone rock face that serves as evacuation center during disasters.

It was the second day of the Solar Scholars training and we have just moved out of the classroom setting from the RE-Charge facility to the community of Tinabanan in Marabut to add a more realistic touch to our attempts to complement disaster response with renewable energy.

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Starting the day with musical chairs, to show how electrons move from atom to atom.

Starting off the day with fundamentals of electricity, the scholars learned about the basic characteristics of electricity and why we don’t use gold in electrical wires despite it being the best conductor, and why we get electrocuted when we touch live wires with wet hands. All these served as backbone information to the critical part of the days’ training, the power needs calculation.

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Women of Marabut and Basey calculating their power usage.

Power needs calculation required our participants to stretch their brain muscles a bit back to high school mathematics to compute for power consumption per appliance and finding the equivalent amount they have to pay to the electric cooperative. The activity was driven by the mothers’ consciousness about household finances. They used this consciousness to better understand their usage in terms of watts and kilowatt-hours and pesos.

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One of our scholars explaining her mathematical computation of power usage.

The afternoon began with our invited guest Engr. Leo Quiros of LDQ Solar to discuss about the basics of solar home and community set up operation and maintenance. The discussion focused more on the consumer point of view.  Leo warmly welcomed their inquiries to better enlighten the scholars on the technicalities of Photovoltaic technology.

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Engr. Leo answering queries on the solar photovoltaic technology

Late in the afternoon, we hiked up to the rock face that housed the large cave of Tinabanan. Concrete steps were made for easier access. We rehearsed the positions of the TekPaks for lighting, command station, and medical station.

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Rehearsing the evacuation sequence using TekPaks.

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Installing the light bulbs along the path to the chamber of the cave.

The next day, the sirens wailed and the people in the community gathered at the basketball court of Tinabanan. The solar scholars manned their posts – a first few heading to the cave as advanced party to set up lighting for the incoming evacuees. The rest helped organize the people, securing the children and the elderly. As the cool chambers gradually lit up with the TekPak’s LED bulbs, the people started coming in to the cave bringing with them their banigs, radios, pillows, and a stash of emergency food.

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Our eldest evacuee approaching the large chamber of Tinabanan cave assisted by our scholars

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Residents of Tinabanan entering the cave shelter after the community leader called out for them to evacuate

They searched for their spots inside the cave in an orderly fashion, to show that they are used to this environment, and now even enhance by the addition of lights and electricity access. Evacuees charged their radios and phones so they could report to their families, while the medical station powered up a nebulizer for a patient having asthma attacks. The children sat close to their mothers in their banigs and pillows and listened as the solar scholars gave instructions on what to do. The cave gave them an enhanced sense of safety and comfort that they could use in times of disaster.

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Children having a comfortable time inside the cave

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Evacuees from Tinabanan.

The drill ended by noon and we headed back to the training venue to rehydrate and evaluate the activity. Representatives from ADB, Plan, Food for the Hungry, and ACF, gave very insightful feedback to the drill. The solar scholars felt more empowered than ever knowing that this time electricity access during evacuation has been made possible by them.

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Russelle of ACF reading out the evaluation forms after the simulation drill

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Birthday greetings for our solar guy and outdoorsman, Glinly.

The training was concluded by the RE-Serve Corps signing up session, turnover of TekPaks to PKKK, and a hearty lunch. And oh yes, before leaving for Tacloban that day, I spent a few hours by the beach where I was able to finally climb the beautiful limestone rock faces of Marabut.

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