By Saturday morning streets and cars disappeared under a heavy white blanket and a wonderland beckoned.
In 2004, Jonathan Morgenstein had a very big problem on his hands. A civil affairs officer with the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Iraq, he was responsible for rebuilding one-third of Ramadi, capital of Al-Anbar province, when insurgents destroyed the high voltage power lines that fed electricity into every home in the city. Watching the Iraqis struggle for weeks on end with no electricity he now faced escalating chaos as one swift act unleashed a chain reaction of black-market-driven violence, disproportionately affecting Iraqi civilians and U.S. military personnel. His experience profoundly changed the way he views how electricity gets delivered and how the design of electrical infrastructure impacts a community’s resilience when warfare comes knocking. Jonathan came home to the U.S. and learned how to install solar panels, as have many other veterans who deem America’s reliance on fossil fuels a national security liability. However, the former Senate foreign policy advisor went back to the Middle East, this time to create Empowerment Solar, a company that puts solar electricity generation in the hands of individuals as a form of economic self-empowerment, starting with businesses in the Palestinian West Bank. He sees solar electricity as a salve for the future, especially in the Middle East. Here, he and his brother, a co-founder, talk about what happens when the lights go out in a war zone, why solar is poised to become the cheapest form of electricity, and what Palestinians think of Americans doing business there.
This interview has been edited for brevity. Continue reading
In January 2011, I traveled with Ken Prussner, President of the NGO STARS Children Africa (www.starschildren.org), to a remote corner in Kenya to chronicle the experiences of orphans that had graduated from high school. STARS– Students Transforming and Renewing its Society– provides orphans in Africa with access to a secondary school education and seeks to break the cycle of poverty and despair and replace it with a reinforcing cycle of hope, renewal and growth.
STARS partners with St. Luke’s Ministries, nestled among rice paddies and potholed dirt roads near Kenya’s far western city of Kisumu. Led by Pastor Joshua and his wife Abigael, St. Luke’s runs a girls’ school and serves orphans and widows in the surrounding communities. The ministry provides young people with encouragement and a nurturing environment to develop confidence, self-respect and responsibility. Above all, STARS seeks to inspire these students to become compassionate leaders in their society.
The following series charts my impressions of the STARS students from 2011 when I first met them, when they set their sights on college, to the present day, where many have graduated and are stepping into the working world, their characters shaped by the experiences they have chosen and those they have endured. Continue reading