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Hospital’s new solar power project sees light of day

Beth McBride and Elizabeth Hunter
putting in the solar panels | photo by john ruvelsin

For women giving birth at the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing near Monrovia, Liberia, the worry that the electricity may shut down just as the baby’s head is crowning has long been a reality.

Thanks to the Northeastern Minnesota’s Synodical Women’s Organization (SWO) that worry will soon be a thing of the past.

An initiative of the Northeastern Minnesota SWO called “PV for Phebe” (PV stands for “photovoltaic,” the process by which light is turned into electricity) has raised nearly 65 percent of its $624,000 goal to provide solar energy to the hospital. And in March 2017, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL)—a Minnesota-based not-for-profit that helps provide solar energy to people of all income levels—began installing solar panels at Phebe Hospital.

The project has been a “faith walk from the very beginning; indeed, an army of believers brought it here to this point,” said BJ Allen, RREAL’s project manager for Phebe. “Over $400,000 from more than 600 individuals came in so far.”

More than 400 ELCA congregations, conferences and synods, ELCA Global Mission, Global Health Ministries, Wheat Ridge Ministries and the National Geographic Society have donated to the cause, Allen wrote in a recent report.

“Countless additional supporters helped bring about the dream” of providing solar power to Phebe, Allen said. “This project is a living manifestation of the unstoppable, caring, powerful, bold women of the ELCA.”

Founded in 1921 by the Lutheran church, in partnership with Methodist and Episcopalian churches, Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing sits 112 miles from Monrovia and serves approximately 450,000 patients a year.

People living near the hospital recently stood in line to earn $5 a day to help install the system. Monrovia has no concrete trucks, so laborers mixed the concrete by hand, said former Northeastern Minnesota SWO board member Mary Jo Mettler.

Mettler came up with the idea for PV for Phebe after she took part in a Women of the ELCA-sponsored “Women Building Global Community” 25th anniversary trip to Liberia in 2012.

A follow-up trip to Phebe Hospital is planned for November to fine-tune the solar energy system, said Mettler, who hopes she can be there. The formal commissioning of the system will take place then.

Here are several ways to stay updated on PV for Phebe progress:

Read the original story of the PV for Phebe project.