Steve Mellott, P.E. reflects on Fisher Associates GivePower Trek
April 7, 2023
Learn more about the GivePower Trek from trekker Steve Mellott, PE as he reflects on Fisher’s outreach mission to provide solar power to a remote Colombian village.
‘Our Fisher/Givepower Team installed a small solar microgrid that powered a school in a small community in Colombia that was is need. The elementary school has three classrooms with about 20 to 30 kids in each class. There were no lights in the classrooms, no television, no internet, and only chairs, a chalkboard, and a dedicated teacher. There were no lights in the bathrooms, which were recently built in anticipation of our project. There were no lights or refrigeration in the kitchen and most of the government provided meals went to waste simply because they couldn’t keep the food cold.
Even though our time in Chontaduro was brief, and much of our time spent working, we were able to spend time with many of the community members who would be impacted by the solar grid construction. We shared meals, joined children on the soccer field and playground, and a family of four invited us into their home and let us swim in the river that was their backyard. The wife/mother worked in the kitchen at the school and the husband/father helped install the microgrid, without being paid. The rest of the community was the same, all hard working, friendly, and eager to share their skills, family, faith, and culture; inviting us into their community with open arms.
I helped dig trenches and hook up power boxes in the school and kitchen area so that they could run the electric cables underground from the solar panels and batteries to each class and building. The trenches were very hard to dig due to the hard red clay, and it took most of the crew to finish them. It was in the mid 90’s the entire week and we worked in the heat of the afternoon after the school was let out for the day so that we wouldn’t interrupt the classes. I personally struggled a lot with the heat and hydration.
Small memories of this trip pop into my mind frequently now that I am back and working as normal. I think of the widow who shared her house with us and let us use her bathroom to shower every evening and allowed us to set up camp in her back yard. The leathery old man who showed us what raw coffee beans looked like and how to shell them in the palms of our hands. The women who had moved to Canada, but now moved back to the community because she had lost her twenty-seven-year-old son and wanted to be with her family and community. The community were so grateful and thankful that we were there.
Our small gift just gave them another tool to help improve their future generation. They now have lights, refrigeration, televisions for learning in the classrooms, and after we left, the school was able to get their own internet service. Fisher’s Core Purpose to improve the quality of life and give back to our community could not have had a more instant impact than this project. This community would keep working hard and would be strong even if we didn’t go there to install this project, but by spending a short amount of time and effort, we were able to make positive changes that will have an impact for generations to come. What future doctor, engineer, scientist, leader will have gone to this school?’