Israeli companies SolarEdge, Netafim and Interdan put the power behind Jewish Heart for Africa, which works to make a brighter future for Africa’s impoverished children.
By Rivka Borochov
When the World Vision charity allowed American sponsors to communicate with the children they were supporting in Africa, the organization created a new paradigm in giving – making it more personal and human. If donors can see the face of the child they are supporting, the connection becomes real and they are more likely to continue their support.
Creating a new spin on this theme, the American-Israeli organization Jewish Heart for Africa now has the technology to show sponsors how donor dollars are lighting up schools, clinics and orphanages in Africa.
By partnering with the Israeli solar technology company SolarEdge Technologies, JHA is now making it possible to monitor the solar installations they’ve donated and set up in four African countries. Thanks to SolarEdge’s award-winning PowerBoxes, visitors to the JHA website can now see online in real-time how their contributions have changed lives of people using the schools or clinics equipped with solar electricity to power laptops, light bulbs and refrigerators for medicine.
According to JHA, about one in six African children will die before the age of five. They suffer from a lack of education and basic medications and vaccines, and often have little parental support because of AIDS epidemics.
Lighting up Africa
Sivan Ya’ari, the Israeli founder and president of JHA, says that since the organization began in 2008, it has completed 37 solar and agricultural projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi, impacting more than 150,000 African people directly.
A second JHA program, Project Agro, uses Israeli drip irrigation systems made by Netafim to increase agricultural yields in an effort to fight food shortages.
But its first and primary project, Sol, is dedicated to installing Israeli solar panels and technologies to power schools, medical clinics, orphanages and water pumping systems. Companies JHA works with include Interdan, which sells its solar panels at cost to the charity, and SolarEdge, whose PowerBox product boosts performance of the photovoltaic panels and also allows for remote online monitoring.
"I can open my computer now and see how well the system is operating in a village," says Ya’ari, who works from the United States and Israel. "Donors can see that the system actually works. And we are getting alerts in case it doesn’t. If that does happen, we can contact our local contractor. It’s been a real revolution for us. Now we are capable of doing more, and we don’t have to send out the local contractor every couple of weeks to check on the installation."
On average, the charity is installing about 200 to 300 watts of solar power per project – enough to power three or four classrooms, one medical clinic with a refrigerator, 10 to 12 light bulbs or an orphanage.
One fridge can save lives
"We are installing a bit more energy in the schools where we are getting them laptops, so they can access the laptops at night. Many children don’t have a home and sleep at the schools at night," remarks the long-time social activist, who once worked for the United Nations.
"SolarEdge has been wonderful in helping us create that project," Ya’ari adds, noting that SolarEdge PowerBoxes are already installed and remotely monitoring Jewish Heart solar projects in Uganda. Here, the organization also donated refrigerators to keep vaccines at optimum temperature before they are administered.
"Thanks to the fridge, people have been standing in line day and night, waiting to get their vaccine – something they couldn’t do before," she says. Some 65,000 children have already received inoculations since the project began.
Ya’ari notes that most of the financial donors to the charity are Americans in their 20s and 30s. JHA has 20,000 followers on Facebook. "It’s a kind of organization that attracts young Jewish professionals in the US," she says, which leads to a large volunteer force. "Since our branding and marketing is about donating to Israel [so they can help Africa], we’ve attracted many of the young people who are concerned about global warming and clean energy."
Meanwhile, she continues her mission to spread a little more Jewish light across Africa.