On this International Women’s Day, our Metro D.C. Synodical Women’s Organization (SWO) encourages us with initiative both empowering and powering.

A ribbon-cutting success was celebrated in November 2017 when Phebe Hospital in Liberia achieved self-reliance through solar power, allowing them to fulfill their life-or-death mission of providing emergency and regular medical care to almost half a million rural Liberians without relying any longer on expensive and polluting diesel power generation. “Our SWO joined with other SWOs [and others] in this endeavor,” reported Cheryl Dwyer, local SWO president. *

Metro D.C. SWO’s Cheryl Dwyer (second from right) and Sheenah Foster of Luther Place Memorial (third from right) are pictured at the 2017 WELCA Triennial Gathering beside Leymah Gbowee (fourth from left). Gbowee is a Nobel Peace Prize winning peace activist and Lutheran from Liberia. “I think we were singing, and she walked down and gathered those in front to stand with her, as everyone was standing and linking arms. Listening to her was a very moving experience!” said Dwyer.

“The seed idea for getting solar panels for Phebe Hospital began in 2012 when several women traveled to Liberia for the Women of the ELCA (WELCA) 25th anniversary tour,” reported Eva James Yeo, WELCA director of membership. ** At the ribbon-cutting ceremony five years later, a WELCA planner of the 2012 global education trip asked Liberian women instrumental locally what kept them going. “Most agreed that meeting together for prayer and Bible study gives them the strength and support to serve others and God. They said they’re committed to encouraging the next generation to get involved,” described Yeo.

A next generation project is already underway in rural northern Liberia. “[Curran Hospital and Nursing School] has been supported by Lutheran women for over 100 years. It is a 112-bed hospital that is struggling financially. A solar electric system will substantially reduce energy costs and even potentially allow the hospital to sell power to area businesses and residents, creating a revenue stream to help with other costs,” reported the SWO of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod. ***

“It’s ramping up within Women of the ELCA,” said Dwyer after attending the recent SWO Conference of Presidents. “You’ll hear more about Current for Curran from our Women of the ELCA exhibitors at the synod’s Spring Convention. Stop by and learn about it.”

* “PV for Phebe — A Success Story” on the Metro D.C. SWO website

** “Ceremony Shines Light on Phebe Hospital” by Eva James Yeo, WELCA Blog (1/25/18)

*** “Phebe Update July 2017” on Northeastern Minnesota Synod website

Video prepared by a non-profit partner in these efforts, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL).