During the past two months, Preston Kemeny and I, Nicole Schiavone, have been working as interns for EFO in Sierra Leone. We are both rising juniors at Princeton University and applied for the position through the Princeton’s International Internship Program. Our work experience over the summer has been varied and interesting, with an emphasis on the Community Charging Station (CCS) project and the SolaWata WASH project. For the first several weeks of our internship, Preston and I visited numerous CCSs and all nine of the SolaWata sites. Our focus on these trips was monitoring and evaluation as we traveled with EFO field researchers Alusine Thorpe and Albert Thoronka. The central project was the final SolaWata survey which was conducted in the nine communities with SolaWata facilities at their CCSs. Preston and I traveled with Albert to the four sites in the Kambia District to interview community members, CCS operators, and health clinic staff members. We conducted 60 to 70 interviews at each site, gathering data about CCS usage, SolaWata purchases, regular household water practices, and water-borne diseases. In addition to having the opportunity to visit many beautiful villages in Sierra Leone, Preston and I got to see how the CCSs and other EFO solar projects were embraced and appreciated wholeheartedly by many members of the communities.
After weeks of visiting sites, Preston and I worked on analyzing the collected data and contributed to various other EFO projects. We organized and reported the data from the final SolaWata survey in the form of a Monitoring and Evaluation Report to present to the WASH donors who funded the project. We also used the information and insights we gathered during site visits and interviews with CCS operators to write two academic papers in collaboration with Paul Munro and Simon Willans. These papers focused on the successes of the CCSs and how they can be used as a business model for similar projects in developing countries. Preston and I also aided with the development of a CCS business plan for the next two years and a brief financial analysis of the expansion of the SolaWata project.
Our last major project for the summer was the solar installation at the Ebert Kakua School for the Deaf in Bo, as detailed in my earlier blog post. It was really an amazing final piece to our summer with EFO. Preston and I participated in various components of EFO’s work in Sierra Leone, from monitoring current projects to analyzing results to working on-site at a solar installation. Our internship was an educational and unique experience and we enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to EFO and its projects in Sierra Leone.