The Case for Using Partners
Barby Pulliam was a founder of Solar Box Cookers International and an early and enthusiastic adopter of solar cookers. Barby then educated thousands of women and children to effectively use solar cookers across the planet over three decades. Read her story and be inspired.
The Case for Using Partners
By Barby Pulliam
Solar Cooking began for me when Don Coan came to our back yard to teach our daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I learned with them. Probably Don convinced the Board of SCI that I could be a useful addition, and they sent me to Zimbabwe with him and Ed Pejack. President Mugabe had asked SCI to develop teams of solar cooking trainers in Harare and Bulawayo to demonstrate the process to heads of state he had invited to a conference on the fuel shortage in Africa. We were a big hit, with many countries requesting training to follow.
The enthusiasm of those heads of state inspired me to involve the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) at its World Conference in Singapore in 1990. I asked for agenda time to promote solar cooking, after which dozens of people lined up to request that I go to their countries. So I did! – forty-one in all in Africa, Asia, Mexico, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and even Europe. For eighteen years I traveled yearly (sometimes more than one trip) to wherever Girl Scouts and Girl Guides invited me. Usually my train-the-solar-trainer course was one week long, and the participants provided my bed and board. I was extending the reach of SCI by involving Girl Scouts in all those countries, using their training skills and their devotion to service.
I can’t say which was my favorite trip. Each was unique, but each took advantage of Girl Scout organizational skills. I left it entirely up to the hostess group to find the place, recruit participants, get government permission as needed and create and use the budget. Since they were all skilled and practiced in those activities, all I had to do was train them in solar cooking. Several invited other organizations - Lutheran Church, Methodists, schools, Boy Scouts and more. Girl Scouts usually have excellent relationships with government officials, and often those officials came to our graduation ceremonies, which added prestige to the events.
One of my more interesting adventures was in Papua New Guinea, a project arranged by our Australian AFS exchange daughter (and Girl Guide), who was CEO of an oil-exploration company operating there. It was a unique experience for me because of the large native population carrying out their ancient traditional activities so openly. Another was in the Cook Islands, one of the few times my husband went with me. The queen (who had been a Girl Guide) took a special interest in our project and drove us around to community events in her beat-up Toyota - very educational!
I took my Girl Scout troop (high school girls) to the Caribbean, where we trained solar cooks in the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica. The new cooks were appreciative and learned well, but our girls got the education of a lifetime. How did we finance this project? Paper drives! Very lucrative and in keeping with our conservation efforts!
It’s been a rewarding effort for me, and I hope for the solar cooks who have improved their lives as a result of learning and practicing this vital skill.