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.
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.
“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.