Solar suitcase saves women, children

What happens when a health clinic in a developing nation loses power?

Hal Aronson, co-founder of We Care Solar, saw the consequences himself as his wife served at a clinic in Nigeria.

“Women did not get the care they needed,” said Aronson in an email to The Guilfordian. “Many would lose their babies or die because doctors could not serve them, as they did not have the light necessary to diagnose and treat.”

As maternal death rates increased, Aronson realized the need for change and designed the We Care Solar Suitcase.

At $1,500, Aronson’s solar-powered suitcase provides backup electricity to health clinics in the developing world.

Its impact?

“More women are surviving childbirth,” Aronson said.

CNN reports that after the suitcase was installed in Nigeria’s state hospital, the death rate for women decreased 70 percent.

While the suitcase provides relief to women it also benefits the population as a whole.

“More people come to the clinics because the clinics are lit up at night,” said Aronson.

Ezra Zerihun, an Early College senior whose parents are native Ethiopians, saw the impact himself when he visited his parents’ hometown.

“Because of the light, the clinics felt safer and more suitable for treatment,” said Zerihun.

This illumination encompasses not only Nigeria and Ethiopia, but many other countries as well.

“We have distributed over 400 Solar Suitcases to over 25 countries,” said Aronson’s wife Laura Stachel, co-founder of We Care Solar. “Most recently, we have worked with UNICEF in Uganda and the U.N. Fund for Population Activities in Sierra Leone.”

The distribution process is laborious, however, and installation requires training.

But logistics have not deterred Aronson and Stachel from continuing We Care Solar’s mission.

“Sometimes, individuals carry these suitcases as luggage on planes and canoes down a river,” said Aronson. “For large projects, we air-freight a pallet of suitcases to a country and work with the local nongovernmental organizations  to deliver and install the systems.”

Unfortunately, Aronson and his team cannot be everywhere at once.

Spearheaded by only six core members and a handful of volunteers, We Care Solar had to find an alternative method to train health care providers in remote locations.

“I have four training videos on our website,, to teach people how to use, install and maintain the suitcases,” said Aronson.

While helpful, these training videos don’t satisfy the organization’s need for manpower. We Care Solar relies heavily on volunteers and welcomes interested students with open arms.

“If there are students who truly want to serve, I am very open to involving them,” said Aronson.