Rock Spring UCC in Arlington Donates $24,000 to Power Rural Clinics in India During COVID

One man’s journey lights a village.

Save a life with a reliable solar panel in a medical clinic in rural India. Save a family a long dusty walk into town to recharge a cell phone. Save the climate by substituting solar power for dangerous and unhealthy kerosene lamps.

Rock Spring United Church of Christ in Arlington has just invested $24,000 from its church mission fund to join with Solar Village Project (SVP) to provide rural clinics in India with solar arrays (panels) that will provide reliable power for medical equipment.

Rev. Laura Martin, Rock Spring associate pastor says, "Our faith calls us to look at the broken places in the world and respond with action and commitment. This mission pairs Rock Spring’s response to climate change with support for COVID victims.” The clinics in these rural areas have reported COVID deaths when clinic ventilators lost their electricity and turned off.

This effort grew out of one man’s journey to India in 2014 where he noticed the disparities between the lives of the Indian people in the village and the life he lived. Joe Kselman, executive director of Solar Village Project, had worked with solar, and he equipped one concrete school. Solar Village Project grew from there to every home in the village and now to rural health clinics and more schools. Kselman has been running SVP as a volunteer since then.

Kselman explains, “My grandfather fled Austria in the 1939 onslaught and took refuge in India where he spent the war traveling through India as a doctor. He came back with all of these war stories.”

Kselman says the Rock Spring grant will allow them to equip rural health clinics in the most impoverished part of northern India. “They don’t have modern facilities by Western standards; it affects everything—transfusions, vaccines, maternity care. We want to make a dent in the 2,000-3,000 clinics, one clinic at a time.” `

He says his goal is to modernize healthcare there so the current electrical loads do not limit them. “Rock Spring support is pivotal for our continued evolution.”

Kselman says there is a new surge of COVID in India that is not in the news cycle. “We want to make sure they are as well prepared as possible.” He explains only 30-40 million people are vaccinated out of a population of a billion. He says, “At one point it seemed like everyone stepping outside got it.”

Jerry Hartz, Rock Spring member and board member of Solar Village says Rock Spring has been involved in these efforts for a number of years. In 2018, Rock Spring UCC and SVP partnered to support micro lending for solar lanterns and solar arrays on schools in rural India.

“For $10 you can provide a solar lantern to replace the dangerous kerosene lantern that causes cancer as well as serious burns.” Hartz says every dollar there goes so far; it could take them two months to pay for these things.” He explains, “It is life changing for a family.” LED lights can power 8 hours of extra light for a family which allows students to study at night, families to charge a cell phone and farmers more time in the field after dark.

“Then when the hurricane hit in Puerto Rico in 2020, Rock Spring members travelled to Puerto Rico to put panels on three community buildings,” Hartz says. “One of these was used later to care for COVID patients. We do what we can do and when people come back, well it’s life changing.”

This gift makes Rock Spring UCC the largest contributor to Solar Village Project’s campaign to raise funds for solar arrays in medical clinics in India. These funds will be used to provide electricity to six more clinics, including the one-doctor 10-bed Ekta Poly Clinic in the Shiupur Bazar Village.

Hartz says, “It breaks my heart what happens. It swells my heart what we can do.”

For more information about Solar Village Prject or to donate, contact: https://www.solarvillageproject.org/

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