The words “productive” and “summer” don’t often come together in a typical college student’s vocabulary. But our summer was different. Welcome to the Thrive Project.
Led by Syracuse University seniors Brian Kam, Ryan Brinkerhoff and Joshua Moon, the Thrive Project is a non profit organization that provides renewable energy solutions and energy education programs to vulnerable communities around the world. Our group of dedicated, passionate and extremely innovative students have spent the past year working tirelessly to raise awareness and increase investments for this mission.
Before the summer even kicked off, we already hit some pretty spectacular milestones. Our team had grown to 22 members, tested and refined our signature Solar Powered Auxiliary Relief Kiosk (SPARK) System, brought home the Espirit de Corps Award from the New York Business Plan Competition Finals, and established a network of advisers across the Syracuse community.
Little did we know; we were just getting started.
On May 25th, 2016, our field team packed up and travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to elevate and establish the essential meaning behind the Thrive Project.
Many communities here are still struggling to recover from the earthquake that shook through Nepal in 2015. Shortly after our flight, we traveled to Siddhipur, Lalitpur, a village on the outskirts of Kathmandu that is in need of supplemental energy, among other assistance regarding their heavily damaged infrastructure.
In Siddhipur, our team began searching for materials or “parts” of the SPARK System. Many of the parts (such as batteries and panels) were found in markets in and around Siddhipur as well as Kathmandu so that the System is kept local and can be recreated once Thrive is no longer in Nepal. We encouraged communities to practice more sustainable energy solutions rather than quick fixes that international aid or donations can only temporarily solve.
“This type of project will not only bring solar energy to our village, but also hope – hope for village development, hope for a better tomorrow.” – Raskin, an IT engineering student residing in Siddhipur, and now a full-time volunteer and teacher for Thrive.
Students like Raskin, with their passion for clean energy and community empowerment fueled us to push forward and expand our pilot program.
Our field team, led by Co-founders Kam and Brinkerhoff, began working closely with the brilliant students and professors of King’s College at their incubator lab and produced very positive results. So, they invited to present on sustainable solutions and community development at the very first International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship hosted by King’s.
From there, local organizations and partners asked us to run demonstrations and some schools asked to make our education program a part of their curriculum. We worked with AJ Wilde College, which provides full scholarships to 70% of their students, to create a sustainable model for a local refugee camp which can both provide them with both clean energy and savings up to USD $50,000 a year. Furthermore, the Global Peace Foundation asked us to co-found their very first incubator for high school students in Kathmandu; an offer that we proudly accepted.
We approached all these exciting new opportunities for the Thrive Project with a thankful heart. The local communities that warmly welcomed us are now apart of the Thrive family, as we are now apart of theirs. Village elders now lovingly call our founders Brian and Ryan as “Tiri and Chiri Babu”, or older and younger brother. These communities remind us of our purpose and keep us motivated to better our organization each day.
In the coming months, our former students in Nepal will become the teachers of our education program. They will run our informational and skills training programs across the country. Meanwhile, our team will be back in Syracuse for school, anxiously waiting to return.
To us, this summer has been an extraordinarily authentic experiment in “social entrepreneurship”. Now, we remind ourselves that our organization’s story does not begin and it certainly doesn’t end with us and this one summer. It is a continuing process in which we work to find collective and sustainable solutions for the problems many societies face.
Together we live, learn, Thrive.
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