Building a New Life: Refugee Team Brings Solar to Oak Park Resident

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June 22, 2017

Refugee Install 3

The entire team of refugee volunteers, including the homeowner as well as staff from GETCHARGEDUP and GRID pose for a group shot.
The entire team of refugee volunteers, including staff from GETCHARGEDUP and GRID Alternatives San Diego pose for a photo with the homeowner.

It’s 7 a.m. in the quiet residential neighborhood of Oak Park in San Diego and on homeowner Dexter Prince’s driveway, something special is just beginning. Ten young men are helping unload a van of equipment -- laughing and joking in Arabic as they carefully stack solar panels against Mr. Prince’s garage door.

These young men are all refugees -- forced to flee their home countries and now working to build a new life in the United States. They’re hoping that solar will be a part of that journey and for some, today marks the first step.

This team of refugees have come to GRID Alternatives via GETCHARGEDUP, a recently-launched San Diego based nonprofit that hopes to redirect the narrative for many young Middle Eastern refugees -- helping them find the training and resources they need to prosper in their new home. Co-founder Faisal El Azzouzi, himself a refugee from Lebanon was forced to flee with his family as a small child and those experiences were a catalyst for the creation of GETCHARGEDUP. “By building a compassionate coalition we will start helping refugees get on their feet, and on the roof,” says El Azzouzi.

This installation, which took place on World Refugee Day, has offered participants an important glimpse into what solar installation entails. Some of the attendees will now move forward with the process of enrolling in GRID San Diego’s recently launched ‘Solar Installation Training Program’ -- taking part in 11 weeks of immersive training including dozens of hands on installation experiences, safety certifications and warehouse workshops.

Three refugee volunteers unload solar panels from a GRID van.
Three refugee volunteers unload solar panels from a GRID van.

GETCHARGEDUP will add an extra layer of support to participating refugees, providing vital translation and transportation services.

For homeowner Dexter Prince, seeing these ten young men working together against the odds to help him as he struggles with energy bills, as well as caring for his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease, has been a deeply moving experience. “I can’t even imagine what many of these people have lived through,” says Mr. Prince as he watches the team busily moving around his yard and passing solar panels up onto the roof.

This solar system is a financial lifeline for Mr. Prince, saving him and his wife around $1000 a year. “I’ve known about GRID for a while and I’ve seen neighbors go solar with them, I’m really glad to be having this system installed today.”

See a full album of photos from the day.