Man who survived Maria in forest donates solar lights to Grand Fond Primary
The night of September 18th 2017, Michael Lees was hunkered down in a palm leaf shelter in the Rosalie forest, awaiting what he thought was a Category 3 Hurricane. The young filmmaker had set out to shoot a documentary about natural living, never in his life expecting to face a Category 5 Hurricane out in the wild.
By a stroke of fate, Michael survived. Nine months later he has returned to the southeast - this time not to the forest, but to the Grand Fond Primary School to make sure every student has a solar light for the coming hurricane season as well as to share his experience and the importance of solar power with students.
"After the experience of Maria, I realized that the solar gear I was using to film in the forest was extremely useful in a post-disaster environment," said Michael.
"I decided to start Survivor Mike's Outdoor and Disaster Prep Store to make the same gear I was using available to all Dominicans - solar lights, chargers, headlamps and more. Since Grand Fond was the first village I visited after Maria and is still without reliable power, it only made sense to raise what money I could to make a donation to the school."
Ms Diane Laurent, principal of the Grand Fond school said the lights were a timely gift and much appreciated by staff and students.
"As the hurricane season has just begun, it is imperative that we prepare and keep the experiences from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in mind as we all suffered in the darkness with no light sources. Solar power is the best alternative as it represents an easily available and free resource which is optimal for a post disaster situation. It's a great gift that the students will truly appreciate."
Grand Fond like many villages on the east coast is still not fully electrified. Although DOMLEC has returned power to the community, outages are regular, and many homes are still not yet connected.
Ten-year old Tyesha Lockhart was delighted with her solar light. The grade four student said the light will be "a lot of help" in allowing her and her friends do their homework and study for class.
Michael hopes that in light of Maria, Dominicans will look more seriously at renewable energy.
"What we've seen post-Maria is the danger of being wholly dependent on one source of power. If we can diversify our power sources and utilize renewable energies in our communities, we can be more energy-secure, save money in the long term, and using less fossil fuels which are harmful to the environment. By introducing children to solar early, we can get one step closer to becoming the climate resilient nation we hope to become."
If you would like to make a donation of solar lights to a school, or inquire about goods for sale, contact Michael Lees at 1-767-276-5313 or visit facebook.com/survivormikes