Paying it forward for her native home


October 23, 2017


Ruth Ruiz

When Richmond, California resident Ruth Ruiz started her application process with GRID to get solar on her home, she had no idea she was opening the door to electrifying her family’s village in Nicaragua. Daughter of a teacher and a coffee grower, Ms. Ruiz immigrated to the United States alone in 1997, and now teaches Head Start for Contra Costa County. She’s raising her 14-year-old daughter Kassandra--a Bay Area teenager who loves basketball, dancing and cheerleading--a world away from the rural agricultural life that still sustains her five brothers. But she is still deeply connected to it.

In 1985, during the Sandinista revolution, Ruth’s family’s successful coffee farm was abandoned due to the war.  After the war, in the 1990s, the family relocated to the community of El Regadio, San Sebastian de Yali, Jinotega and used the small compensation they received to buy new land, restarting their coffee business from scratch. Her father and brothers worked the farm, while her mother taught adult education and literacy out of their house.

The family was successful enough that they were able to donate some of their land in El Regadio to the Ministry of Education in Nicaragua (MINED) for an elementary school, but like the rest of the village, the school had no electricity. When Ms. Ruiz learned about GRID’s international program while getting her own solar electric system, she saw an opportunity to bring power to the community.

It was a perfect fit. In July 2017, GRID Alternatives worked with the community of El Regadio to install a 2.5kW off-grid PV system on the school with local and international participants. Now the school has lights and AC power, giving the two teachers and 40 students access to technology and a lit-up place to study in the evenings. Located in the center of the community, the school can also be used for night meetings, festivals and other events for the 320 people that live in the area.

The school was just the first step. GRID is also working with the community in 2017 and 2018 to install small solar systems on 75 homes and a solar-powered coffee roaster to support a locally run coffee cooperative.  Ruth’s family is also donating another piece of land near the school to a local organization called Cooperativa Agropecuaria Manantial de Virtudes R.L. so that it can build an office and a classroom for adult education targeting women.

“I am very grateful to GRID, said Ruth. “It is making a big difference in the lives of El Regadio community and it will open a lot of opportunities in the futures of the children."

Ruth hopes to visit Nicaragua next year to help install some of the systems, and she dreams of retiring in El Regadio, where she still has a small farm of her own. In the meantime, she is grateful for the sun, and how it’s helping her make a difference in a land she loves.