Our Latest Light for Life Solar Suitcase Installations 

GreenLamp representatives Christina Blecher and Karin Ranstrand traveled to Ethiopia in April 2015 to oversee our latest installations of Solar Suitcases.

Day One

Our GreenLamp representatives Christina and Karin visited Amhara, one of 9 regions in Ethiopia and home to 20 million people. They met with regional health officials to kick off the latest Solar Suitcase installations and revisited Ambessame Health Centre where GreenLamp was involved with installations a year ago. Evidence so far shows that there have been up to four times more deliveries per month at health centres in the Amhara and the SNNPR regions; the first two regions to receive the GreenLamp funded Solar Suitcases. This is an amazing result and we anticipate that other regions will soon follow this trend.


Day Two

Karin Ranstrand and Christina Blecher were privileged to have tea with Dr. Catherine Hamlin during their visit to the Hamlin College of Midwives in Ethiopia and say “She is amazing and still going strong!”
At the age of 91 Catherine Hamlin is still active and fully committed to her life mission to prevent and treat obstetric fistula and to restore the dignity of the girls and women who suffer from this condition. GreenLamp is proud to be involved with such an inspiring mission.



Day Three

Two of the midwives that GreenLamp are supporting through the Hamlin College of Midwives in Addis Ababa were there to meet up with Karin and Christina; Ilili Abdo, our 3rd year student (wearing the yellow headscarf) and Medina Babu, our 1st year student (wearing the blue headscarf). Both students are really positive, lovely young women who are enjoying their studies and already showing themselves to be great role models.

Day Four

At the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis, surgeons perform life-changing procedures that give women with obstetric fistula a chance for resuming a normal life. With subsequent pregnancies, the mothers are brought to the hospital for a c-section, to avoid the chance of developing another fistula. That means a safe delivery for the mother and her baby. Here are some expectant mothers waiting for their c-section with their absolutely adorable older kids!

Day Five

GreenLamp made a revisit to Ambessame Health Centre a year after the center received a Solar Suitcase. Karin was thrilled to talk to midwife Gizework who told her how fantastic it is to have reliable light every night to help with deliveries. Many more women are coming to deliver there because they know there will be light, which means a safer delivery for both mother and baby.



Day Six

This is farmer Almethay, 20, and her husband Gaschopp, 22. They walked 1 hour to get to the Amarit health center for a pre natal check-up. They not only got a check up, but were the first couple at that health centre to hear their baby's heartbeat with the fetal doppler! 
They are expecting their second child, and with a secure light at the health center, they will try to reach the health centre in time for the delivery.

In Ethiopia for GreenLamp – A First-Hand Experience 

 It was with huge enthusiasm and a little trepidation that my son Knut and I travelled to Ethiopia this autumn, a first such trip for myself as representative of GreenLamp.My task was to follow up on the projects GreenLamp supports in addition to gaining a better understanding of what is really involved on a day to day basis so as to report back to our group in Zurich and explain at first-hand what I saw. Knut was there for a school project. It turned out to be a short, intensive trip.

Arriving early in the morning in Addis Ababa, Knut and I were greeted by Hamlin staff and taken to the Hamlin College of Midwives. We participated in the refresher training organized by We Care Solar (represented by Christina Breigleb and Merritt Gates, who is our solar ambassador). This involved working with the technicians from the Hamlin team by going out in the field and installing the second lot of solar suitcases - 21 in all - at health centres in the Tigray region in north-eastern Ethiopia.

I also met up with a number of the midwives that GreenLamp supports, delivered books to their library and had an interesting talk with the Country Director and Dean of Students, Zelalem Belete. I was given a tour of the college Desta Mender and its grounds: a very beautiful and inspiring place in an otherwise quite hectic and industrialised part of Addis Ababa. They have a rehab centre for fistula patients who cannot be integrated back into normal life.


The following day, Knut and I, together with Christina from We Care Solar, were
given a personal tour by CEO Martin Andrews of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. We gained an understanding of the difficulties and challenges that hospital staff face and were greeted enthusiastically by Dr Catherine Hamlin, notwithstanding the fact that she is still frail following of an accident a short while back. It was an honour to be welcomed in such a way by Dr Hamlin, especially as the hospital has a regular stream of visitors, so the time afforded me and my son was treasured. Photographing the hospital or wards is not allowed out of respect to the patients, a rule strictly adhered to as they have had problems in the past with broadcasting companies. By seeing at first hand the suffering caused by obstetric fistula and how the stigma associated with this medical condition continues to be a problem, I gained invaluable understanding into the marvellous work being carried out at the hospital. The experience touched me deeply.

That same afternoon was spent in a meeting with the Dean of Students at the Hamlin College of Midwives, representatives from We Care Solar and Dr Adamu, professor at the University of Addis Ababa. Among the topics discussed were the procedure for collecting baseline data from the health centres so as to establish the M&E (monitoring and evaluation) process for the Light for Life project.

Monday was set aside for the Tigray Regional Health Bureau Meeting. Participating in this event were health officials from the Tigray region, as well as representatives from the Hamlin Hospital, We Care Solar and GreenLamp on behalf of UBS Optimus Foundation. Ethiopian TV and radio were present and recorded the presentations. 

In the afternoon, Abebayehu Habteselassie, the Solar Suitcase coordinator from
Hamlin, managed to transport the entire team to the health centre at Adiqalla in
Woreda, Seharti Samre, where equipment had been installed in the spring of 2014. I found it particularly interesting to meet the midwives and to see how the solar suitcase actually functions out in the rural areas. There were some minor problems regarding the use of the solar suitcase, which again demonstrates how vitally important it is to ensure that misunderstandings regarding the installation of equipment are exposed and dealt with as quickly as possible. It cannot be emphasised enough that there is no substitute for the correct and ongoing training of midwives.

The last day of the trip the whole team took part in the first installation of a solar
suitcase in the Tigray region. Dr. Adamu, Knut and I had to catch the afternoon flight from Mekele, but in view of the fact that this health centre was located near a good road, it took less than an hour to get there and back. The installation was carried out efficiently and afterwards one of the Hamlin technicians, overlooked by Merritt of We Care Solar, worked together actively with the midwives until they had understood the functions of the equipment. There was also time for an interview with one of the midwives and conversations with the local people and patients, which will form part of a future newsletter.


Throughout this fantastic trip my son and I felt the genuine hospitality of those we were fortunate enough to meet and we were left in no doubt as to how grateful everybody is for this project. Everyone from Hamlin and We Care Solar was very accommodating and worked as a team which allowed us to integrate well into the group.


And what have I learnt? Perhaps the most important things to come out of the trip are the knowledge and affirmation that strategic philanthropy is the right way forward, that the teams in Ethiopia are working well together and that they are able to take these projects in the right direction. It demonstrates that this a sustainable project which improves the care of women in rural health centres. And it has also shown me that this is just the beginning and there are many aspects to the project that we must consider and develop in order to guarantee its continued success. 

Kathleen Hedman, November 2014