ENCINITAS — Susie Steimle did what a lot of young adults do when faced with the overwhelming problems of society. She found herself brainstorming with a group of friends after completing graduate school about how to make a positive impact on the world.
But this group of local post-graduates did more than just think about problems, they sought solutions to creating a more sustainable environment and increasing access to health care and education.
The result is Renewable Energy for Medicine and Education, or REME as it is referred to, a nonprofit based in Encinitas that supports innovative projects designed to ensure access to health care and education in the world’s poorest countries. The group believes these are fundamental human rights that can be obtained while protecting the environment.
While the organization’s goals may seem lofty to some, the founders are working systematically to realize success. “We’re taking this one project at a time,” Steimle said. “Our first project will bring electricity using solar panels to a school and a clinic.”
The group chose Nicaragua for its pilot project for several reasons. “The country has an abundance of sunshine,” Steimle said. “This is important when producing solar energy.” Perhaps not so obvious is the country’s willingness to use alternative fuel sources on a wide scale. “Currently there are a couple of villages that rely wholly on solar energy,” Steimle said.
The country is experiencing a relatively stable government, unlike its historical upheavals and is in a position to accept foreign investment. According to the Organization of American States, Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. According to statistics compiled by several nonprofits, 40 percent of Nicaraguans live without any electricity.
But REME aims to change those numbers. The group is working in partnership with Grupo Fenix, a group of engineering students and professors in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, to install solar panels and train local solar technicians. “It’s very important to REME that the project be sustainable after we leave,” Steimle said. “Groupo Fenix as well as the locals they train provides the safety net we are looking for.”
The group is on its way to providing solar-generated electricity for an elementary school and a medical clinic in a remote southern area of the country that is not on the electricity grid.
The benefits of electricity in both areas are tremendous according to Steimle. “With expanded hours of operation, the clinic and school will be able to serve people in the agricultural workforce who cannot get to the clinic during daylight hours,” she said. “The medical equipment can be sterilized and medicines refrigerated.” The school will also be able to serve as a community center in the evening hours.
The group estimates the cost of the entire project to be $50,000. “We are on our way to raising the money and helping install the first set of panels this year,” Steimle said. “We are taking donations from individuals, groups, businesses, anyone who wants to help.” The group is also a beneficiary of the search engine www.goodsearch.com. “We get a penny for every search you make,” Steimle said.
REME doesn’t plan to stop with Nicaragua. “After this project we’re looking to develop a model that can be mass produced,” Steimle said.
For more information, visit the group’s Web site at www.remeonline.org.