Bringing Solar Power to the Navajo People
Every day, there are people in the world working to help others. Sometimes they must battle circumstances and convention to share their vision for a better future. While it may not always be easy, by putting in the work and following through, they provide us all with an example of service.
Manygoats battles difficult circumstances: nearly half of the Navajo nation lives below the poverty line, with approximately 18,000 homes lacking electricity. Nearly 75% of all unelectrified homes within US borders are Navajo homes.
Electricity is one of the most basic conveniences that so many of us take for granted. Besides its ability to power appliances and devices, its most universal use as a source of light is an invaluable one. The alternative, employed in many “off the grid” Navajo homes is to light the home using kerosene lamps. Kerosene is expensive, creating a cycle in which upgrading or making a change is close to impossible. Kerosene lamps are also dangerous, creating a perpetual risk of fire within these homes.
Manygoats has decided to help her people move into the 21st century, and hopes to end the use of kerosene through the Navajo Women’s Energy Project. Through her program, Eagle Energy, a division of the nonprofit Elephant Energy, Manygoats hopes to help other Navajo by installing free solar energy panels.
Part of the battle for Manygoats is combating not just poverty, but perception. Many of the elders in her community are skeptical of new technology, and resist change. To combat this, Manygoats turns to the Navajo faith, which has always revered the sun as a provider and protector. She explains that “Jóhonaa’éí” (pronounced “jo-ho-nai-ay”) or the sun, who helped create the earth in the Navajo faith, is offering to provide free energy and a better life. Through the lens of faith, the change is easier to swallow for many of the elders.
As of the time of this publication, approximately 350 homes have received free solar panels through her initiative. It is a great start, but there is still a long way to go.
Adrian Manygoats, and her efforts to not only help those of her people who are struggling, but to do so with sensitivity for their beliefs and not force anything, is a powerful example. The hope and promise for the future that lies in this story is one worth sharing, as we all consider how to be more sensitive to both the needs and beliefs of others.