Q&A with Monze Project Team Lead Kirk Maclearnsberry
This month, Kilowatts for Humanity is sending a team to Zambia do an assessment for our upcoming summer implementation project in the Monze Province. This blog post highlights Kirk Maclearnsberry, the team lead for the trip. He currently works as an Electrical Engineer with the solar developer Teichos Energy. Kirk started volunteering with KWH in spring of 2015, shortly before the implementation trip of the Filibiba kiosk. Kirk has travelled with KWH on the Munyama installation trip and has been an active volunteer since then.
Here’s our Q&A with Kirk:
Q - Why did you choose to volunteer with KWH?
A - I’ve been interested in renewable energy for a long time now. At the time I found KWH, I was looking for local volunteer opportunities, so KWH was a natural fit.
Q - What volunteer roles have you played?
A - On the microgrid team I’ve worked on all the KWH projects since Filibaba, running HOMER models, developing CAD drawings, and electrical system specifications. On the Munyama project, I served as the engineer on the travel team, and worked with Suntech as well as with our student and local volunteers to get the kiosk wired and electrified.
Q - What projects have you worked on and traveled to?
A - So far, Munyama is the only project that I have traveled to Zambia for. Besides the Caritas project, I’m currently serving as the energy system lead for the EWB Coope ICT Center project in Uganda. KWH has been assisting EWB with the Coope project for several years now.
Q - What is your most memorable experience from traveling to Munyama?
A - There are so many…playing soccer with the kids in Munyama, being out on Lake Kariba at night and looking up at the Southern Cross, seeing the kiosk lights turn on for the first time, seeing the community’s reaction to watching “The Jungle Book” using power from the kiosk, eating freshly roasted goat with Alfred and some of the other boys from Munyama before the community event...
Q - What is your favorite thing about volunteering with KWH?
A - I love working with KWH because of the other volunteers. Everyone is there because they love what they do, and there is a solid core of veteran members who really are always eager to share experiences and pass on skills to new volunteers.
Q - What are you most looking forward to with our new project with Caritas?
A - The Caritas project is unique so far in the level of responsibility that the community and partner NGO have in developing the business plan and kiosk-use case. This is exciting to me because I think that each additional degree of community involvement increases the chance that the community will really take ownership of the project. I think that often, we can do more by doing less, and this project will be a great learning experience for us as we try to provide strategic guidance to the community, while they drive the project with their own vision.
Q - Any other thoughts? Notable moments/memories/things you've learned from other volunteers?
A - The volunteer base at KWH draws from quite a diverse mix of students, professionals and academics, people from all religions and walks of life. Couple that with the far-flung project locations and I feel continually blessed to work alongside people with skills I don’t have and those who have been through hardships that I have not experienced. I’m so thankful for all my KWH relationships and have come to see that electrifying a community is as much about connecting with people as it is about connecting wires.
Kirk, we’re excited to have you as the team lead! Looking forward to hearing the report later this month from the Assessment Trip, and seeing how this exciting new partnership with Caritas Monze leads to even more opportunities to Light up the Night!