I awake in the cold and look outside to see snow has covered the valley and the roofs of the homes. I wonder if this is going to slow down our efforts to install 40 lighting kits today. Isn’t it supposed to be warmer at the equator? After a leisurely and soul warming breakfast of sopa de papa (potato soup) and mate tea, I quickly learn that no weather slows down the Q’eros.

Morning snowfall in the Andes

Day 2 is a flurry of activity. We install a few more systems in the community where we slept, then begin a process of trekking several hours to the next community, installing lights, trekking to the next community. Everywhere, we are welcomed into homes, served warm food and tea.

Installing solar panel on roof

Well-earned potato break

Dany from Q'ellqa and the Q'eros help assemble kits


During each installation, we train the homeowner how to use the light and phone charging system in either Spanish (my Spanish is Dora-esque so this is mainly the team from Q’ellqa and Rafael, our distributor in Peru) or Quechua. Among the Q’eros, Cesar is the appointed handyman of all the systems. He and several others have mastered all the components and correct us when we make a mistake. They know how to do basic troubleshooting so that we can maintain the systems over time if any parts fail. Their enthusiasm and quick learning gives us confidence that the systems will be well taken care of. The Q’ellqa crew will stay in close contact with them to collect feedback on the systems and provide advice.

Cesar demonstrating how the battery works

Checking the list for which installs come next

By the end of the second day, I’m better adjusted to the altitude, but exhausted from the trekking and climbing. After installing one of the last lights, we hear the chant of “Otra casa!” and climb up another impossibly steep hill to another home to do another installation. I can barely walk straight, but can’t wait to do thousands more.

Another light installation

Team Q'ellqa, Water Solutions Peru and Voltaic

Photographs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 by Cusco Photographer Carlos Garavito. Photograph 1 by Voltaic Systems.

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