In a milestone project that spanned over two years to compose, organize, and execute, MAHI International, in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Pohnpei and AusAID Small Grants Scheme, implemented a solar power grid that will produce ice for the fisherman of Pakin Atoll, a small outer island community of Pohnpei. This project introduced a state-of-the-art sustainable energy production system that, for the first time, will allow the fishermen of Pakin to control their own ice supply and serve as a foundational grid that can allow for subsequent projects that will improve the educational opportunities of the elementary student population of the island.
The biggest challenge facing this project’s success were the incredible logistics demanded to ship all the materials to Pakin from China and the United States. This required international negotiations and modifications that stretched over a period of months, but the result was a huge success for the impoverished Pacific community. Pakin Atoll, with a population of about 100 individuals, makes a communal annual income of approximately $15,000, most of which is generated from small-scale copra production and fishing. Monies can only be collected by transporting the goods across thirty miles of open ocean to the main state island of Pohnpei, therefore making the income and subsequent livelihood and survival predicated on innumerable external risks, such as bad weather, mechanical failure, recent demand, price fluctuation, and ice supply. By giving Pakin a higher level of autonomy over their ice supply, MAHI International achieved a practical, measurable, and sustainable benefit for those it seeks to aid.
The project, spearheaded by MAHI International’s Executive Director John Schroer and Peace Corps Volunteer Apurou Johnson, received donations of nearly $25,000 from its funders in order to construct a solar-powered system on Pakin Elementary School. Through MAHI International’s network, it was able to secure the services of an experienced solar engineer, Geof Moser, pro bono. Many members of Pakin’s indigenous Mortlockese community donated substantial labor to ensure rapid construction (two days) of the project’s system. Training and follow-up were provided by MAHI International on a regular basis to ensure that the welfare of the system is secured.
In addition to creating ice, the system will allow for future projects such as lighting in the school, computers, food preservation, and multiple other avenues. It was done with complete integrity and at very lean expense, showing that impactful development can be incurred within needy communities in a cost-efficient manner. The project also serves as an example that local populations can realistically expect that such development is available to them if properly pursued and endorsed by their representatives.
All participants in the solar system installation can be assured that their work will be meaningful in the tangible, long-term well-being of Pakin Atoll.