SUNSPOTS March Equinox 2008
I have actively engaged in educational activities both domestically and abroad, and am particularly drawn to and proud of the organization's long history in this realm. As a new mother, I see these activities as essential to the implementation of solar cooking, water pasteurization and water testing technologies, all to the benefit of future generations.
Early in its history, SCI's efforts focused on the facilitation of networks among a small group of peers and encouraging grass roots promotion of solar cooking. This was accomplished by hosting forums and conferences to encourage discussion and information sharing, and producing various publications, such as "how to" manuals and a regular newsletter.
Fast forward 20 years: tens of thousands of individuals and organizations from all over the world have learned about solar cooking through SCI's excellent publications and educational materials, and have benefited from SCI's information exchange networks, research, technical support, and the SCI-sponsored Solar Cooking Archive, the internationally recognized Internet resource for solar cooking information.
One of the most dynamic and successful parts of SCI's Education Resources program and the focus of the "Program Highlight" in this issue of SunSpots is information exchange. As one of the cornerstone functions of this organization, it has maintained its relevance, usefulness and effectiveness by fulfilling a basic need, while making use of the constantly advancing communications technologies, such as the Internet, that are widely available, even in some of the more remote parts of the world.
In addition to learning more about the success of our information exchange activities, this issue's "Volunteer Spotlight" will introduce you to one of our many dedicated volunteers, who in this instance has given of her time and expertise to ensure that SCI remains as the world's foremost source of solar cooking information.
SCI board of directors
"I thank you for the critical information you are giving us. We are expanding, and the impact … is beginning to be felt country-wide." - UGANDA
"Wow, what a complete and detailed response you gave me to my question; I thank you for filling in so many gaps." - COTE D'IVOIRE
SCI receives hundreds of inquires each year from around the globe, often from individuals and organizations looking to begin solar cooking projects, but also from current and future solar cooks, kids working on science projects, potential partners, and reporters. Through the information exchange services of SCI's Education Resources program, inquires are responded to by volunteers and staff who share resources, answer questions, and provide materials, all of which further the spread of solar cookers and the positive impacts brought about by their use.
"I appreciate you sending the Solar Cooker Review for the past years. It has been of great use to us. We have been active in solar cooker promotion. Over 100 cookers have been made in community workshops in poor sectors of our countryside." - COLOMBIA
"You send me the [Solar Cooker Review] which is very great. I can easily get information about the events in other countries which look inspiring and hopeful." - TURKEY
Nearly half of 76 active solar cooking promoters indicated in a survey that SCI's periodicals and publications are our most useful resources. The Solar Cooker Review is our flagship periodical, with a worldwide circulation of about 12,000. In it are stories of solar cooking and water pasteurization efforts that inspire and provide useful examples to those hoping to teach such activities in their own communities. Similarly, one can find inspiring and informative articles in SuNews, a regional periodical of our eastern Africa office with a circulation of about 4,000. Our booklets, manuals, and audiovisual materials are also invaluable tools we use to share information broadly.
"[SCI does] emphatic work in diffusion and investigation … [and sponsors] the most complete portal of thematic information on the Internet, the Solar Cooking Archive." - SPAIN
"I am not going to get tired [of thanking] you for your promptness and useful information. I have had so many contacts with worldwide solar cooks and producers through SCI's international directory." - DJIBOUTI
Our Solar Cooking Archive Web site plays an important role in information exchange. We continually post relevant articles, documents, and news stories that not only provide answers to many common questions about solar cooking and water pasteurization, but also help connect solar cooks and advocates with regional experts via the international directory of solar cooking promoters. Our Solar Cooking Archive Wiki, now in its second year, has opened up the process of information exchange by allowing anyone with Internet access to post his or her own experiences and ideas, sharing them with the world. Several volunteers have helped staff member Tom Sponheim create and maintain this invaluable tool that is already growing rapidly.
"I am impressed by the helpfulness of your organization it's refreshing." - MOROCCO
With your ongoing support and encouragement, SCI will continue to provide top quality information exchange services. Please if you would like additional information about the highlighted information resources or other educational materials offered by SCI.
SCI director of Education Resources
Volunteers have always played an important role at SCI, particularly in our Education Resources program. They contribute information and expertise as authors of articles and source materials covering a broad range of issues related to solar cooking and water pasteurization. Volunteers help with outreach by representing SCI at various events, such as those related to Earth Day or with local community groups and schools. Also, thanks to the work of several people, SCI has been able to develop and maintain two of the most comprehensive online resources related to solar cooking the Solar Cooking Archive and its wiki counterpart.
The paths that lead people to volunteer with SCI are as different as the individuals themselves; however, dedication is one characteristic that links them all together, a trait that comes through in a recent interview with SCI 2007 Volunteer of the Year, Mojgan Fischer, who began volunteering with SCI in 2006:
SCI What motivated you to serve as a volunteer for SCI?
MF I have always been interested in making a difference in the lives of people, and a while ago, I saw a picture of people carrying firewood for cooking in a village in Africa. The people there were without access to many things we take for granted in our lives, such as electricity, and had no choice but to cut down trees to use as firewood for cooking. This of course had a disastrous effect on their environment. Some time later I read an article about solar cooking being used in Africa to mitigate the use of trees as firewood for cooking, and I knew then I wanted to find out more about solar cooking because this technology was making a difference in peoples' lives on many levels their health, their family and their environment. This led me to SCI, and I soon began volunteering.
SCI As a volunteer, how have you been involved with SCI educational activities?
MF In helping out at SCI, I have given solar cooking presentations to adults and children alike. I feel the best way to promote solar cooking and the work of SCI is to make that first introduction to solar cooking be interactive. It has to be a "hands-on" experience. For example, I taught a solar cooking class to sixteen first and second grade children where the kids built a simple solar oven. The next day many of them had already used their oven. In other workshops, more for adults, I set up a variety of solar ovens from high tech to low tech each with a thermometer and something cooking in it. The people saw the ovens work and tasted foods cooked in them. However, I could not share solar cooking with others if I was not passionate about the subject. I think that makes the biggest difference in the people I talk to about solar cooking.
SCI Why do you feel it is important to educate people about the benefits of solar cooking and the work of SCI?
MF In general, there is not enough awareness about solar cooking. Today with the rising cost of energy, and the ever-increasing concern for our own "carbon footprint," I don't think enough people consider solar cooking as part of the solution, and something they can do on an individual level to make a difference. [In Sacramento] we have an ideal climate for solar cooking people could take advantage of it, reduce their energy costs a little, and most importantly feel that they are doing something good for the planet. It is important for people to know this. In other areas of the world, solar cooking is already benefiting communities and the environment.
While SCI is fortunate to have such high caliber volunteers as Mojgan, the need for additional assistance nearly always outweighs available volunteer capacity. Individuals who are motivated to volunteer are encouraged to contact SCI (916.455.4499 or ) and discuss potential opportunities for becoming involved.
SCI in the News
The Financial Times | February 2008
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