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Solar Sisters welcomed back home
24 March 2011

Five Congolese women – affectionately known as the Solar Sisters – have been welcomed home after spending six months in India taking part in a unique initiative to promote the use of sustainable solar energy in the villages close to the gorilla habitat in DRC. 

The women, all grandmothers, left their villages at the start of November 2010 after being picked to take part in a joint initiative between the Gorilla Organization and the Barefoot College in Tilona, India. Here, joined by women from around the world, they learned how to identify electronic components, fabricate circuits, and install and maintain solar units. 

Hands-on demonstrations and diagrams were used to overcome the issue of illiteracy as well as the language barriers present between the students and their instructors, while the Gorilla Organization's DRC programme manager Henry Cirhuza and communications manager Tuver Wundi ensured that the women's families were continually reassured of their wellbeing and informed of their progress as the course progressed.

At the end of their training, Bunker Roy, manager at the Barefoot College, praised the women for their courage in leaving their families and for managing to overcome a range of challenges to learn practical skills that will be of real benefit to their communities.

On their return to the DRC, the ladies were received by the governor of North Kivu province, Julien Paluku Kahongya, and by the provincial minister of the environment, Chantal Rugenera.  Now, with the formalities over, the Solar Sisters will get to work in their respective villages, all of which are situated on the edge of the Virunga National Park in eastern DRC, home to some of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas. 

By putting their new skills into action, the Solar Sisters will be able to help lift their communities out of poverty and to ease the pressure being placed on the gorillas' forest home. Light will enable people to work or study after dark, while solar power will also bring further technological opportunities to the villages.

Welcoming the news from the DRC, Jillian Miller, director of the Gorilla Organization, said: "One of the greatest threats to the gorillas in the DRC right now is loss of habitat through deforestation caused by the illegal charcoal trade. We see the introduction of solar power in the villages as something that can help alleviate pressure in the long-term and can contribute to the economic welfare of the people around the park."

The picture (above) shows the Solar Sisters enjoying a visit to the Taj Mahal. They were also honoured to meet the Dalai Lama during their stay.

For more pictures from the Solar Sisters time in India, visit the Gorilla Organization's blog on Wildlife Direct.

for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123