The story of Great Lakes Energy is a very personal one, so I’ll just tell it from the heart.
I had never been to Africa before and had no major plans or ideas about what to do with my life. But when my cousins Louise and Caleb King and their family offered me an opportunity to come help them at their rural hospital in the remote north-west of Rwanda, it felt like the right thing for me at the time.
I was 20 years old and had zero direction or purpose in life. I was floundering and needed to dive into something more meaningful. So I accepted the challenge. In the spring of 2003, I packed my bags and headed across the Atlantic.
I had committed to a three-month trip in Rwanda. It was an entire semester, which seemed like an eternity at the time. But once I landed on Rwandan soil, it wasn’t long before it began to feel like my new home. I was enthralled by Caleb and Louise’s medical expertise, wisdom and endless generosity and care. This was precisely the type of environment I needed, and wanted.
During my time volunteering at the Shyira hospital, I did anything and everything I could to help. I drove the ambulance, babysat, played handyman and helped repair the gravity fed water supply line. I was constantly engaged in new challenges that were helping me grow and understand better how I could serve.
Before I began my journey to Rwanda, The Kings had spoken to me about the constant struggle with reliable energy for vital hospital equipment due to being so far away from the nearest power grid. So I ordered my first introduction to solar energy book and commenced to study.
During my time in Shyira, I read every PV (photovoltaic) engineering book that was published and available on Amazon. I enjoyed the education and the opportunity to practice what I learned on a regular basis in an effort to electrify the hospital on limited and intermittent budgets.
Years later, as I studied and volunteered my time, the word spread into the Kigali NGO community that there was a kid living in a village in the north that was becoming a solar expert. This is when the foundation of Great Lakes Energy began to form organically. It wasn’t long before I was working with a handful of NGOs that were in desperate need of reliable energy for their healthcare centers and hospitals.
In 2007, three years after beginning the volunteer program in Shyira, I was ready to begin my own solar company. There was an obvious gap in the market for a clear, honest explanation of solar technology and reliable service in solar power. I had a mere $3,000 from the money I had saved over the previous years. But it was enough to get us off the ground. With that, Great Lakes Energy was born.
The last ten years have provided the team and myself with a spectacular, hands-on education in providing optimized solar energy systems for healthcare providers, as well as customized solar power systems for a variety of applications, and solar solutions for rural homes. We’ve been through the catastrophic failures as well as the game changing successes. And we’ve learned from it all.
Today, all of us are continue to be enthralled with the challenges and opportunities this business provides us. We are passionate about what we do, and from it, we have developed a family; one that continues to learn and grow and thrive together. Great Lakes Energy is more than just an entrepreneurial enterprise; it represents a new and brighter future for healthcare in Rwanda and beyond.