By Chintan Mehta, YES 2012-13, India, hosted by AFS USA in Corrales, NM
I am Chintan Mehta, a recent university science graduate and a YES alumnus. It is fair to say that my passion for community service can be traced back to my exchange year in Corrales, New Mexico. It was during my YES year that my host dad encouraged me to join various NGOs in their volunteer efforts and introduced me to the invaluable experience of giving back. Since then, I have participated in community service projects aimed at solving different problems of society here in India.
In March 2016, I got the opportunity to participate in the YES Alumni Social Entrepreneur Workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by AFS. Utilizing the curriculum, I learned how to identify challenges in society and how to design solutions for them.
Following my participation in the Social Entrepreneur Workshop, I had the chance to visit a remote village in my home state of Gujarat. The visit was an eye opening experience for me, as I saw many houses using diesel-based electric power generators, and some with no electricity at all. I realized that many people of all ages do not know where the electricity they use comes from and what the hidden consequences of using conventional sources of electricity are. In order to have a bottom-up change in the people’s perspectives, we need to inform and educate the young people about the past, present, and future of our energy sources.
On the upside, local school students already see solar panels lightning up public places like gardens, streets, and even some schools. Seeing huge shiny plates facing the sun made them curious! Therefore, I decided to start a project to create more awareness about solar energy and explain the ways of harnessing it.
Project EduSol was born in April 2017. After being awarded a 2017 YES Alumni Grant, I bought the various electronic components needed to execute the project. My primary goal was to educate youth about solar energy and its increasing importance in our society and its immediate benefits to India. I did this by making presentations to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those living in rural and suburban areas. EduSol’s goal was to educate at least 300 students, ages nine to 15, about solar energy and get them excited through activities like a solar car race, lighting an LED, and charging USB devices with solar energy to see the firsthand experience of harnessing it.
The solar car race was a major hit! All the students I presented to learned how solar electricity powers the motor of a vehicle to propel it forward. Many students cited the solar car race as one of the best parts of the presentation.
I finally achieved my goal of presenting to at least 300 students by April 2018. In the long term, I hope that the presentation will be a valuable experience for the students. I also hope that such training can be institutionalized across India through educational institutions as renewable energy has become an important and inevitable part of our world’s electricity sources.
Project EduSol would not have been possible without receiving a 2017 YES Alumni Grant. I thank the U.S. Department of State for sponsoring the grant program and the YES Alumni Social Entrepreneur Workshop, which helps equip alumni like me to take responsibility for social change in their communities and implement tangible changes to better our world together.