Viewers Donate Over $8,000 to Aid Baby Deliveries in Developing World

BY Cat Wise  April 19, 2012 at 3:18 PM EDT

A Liberian midwife learns how to maintain and clean a newly installed solar suitcase.

PBS NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels recently reported on the Berkeley, Calif., nonprofit We Care Solar, which developed a “solar suitcase” to provide lights and communications equipment in delivery rooms and health care facilities in developing countries.

Co-founder Dr. Laura Stachel reports that NewsHour viewers were quick to offer their support. “The response to the PBS segment was tremendous,” she said. “We received inquiries from potential volunteers, engineers wanting to help craft our suitcases, and organizations looking to light up clinics in the developing world.”

Since the report first aired on April 4, We Care Solar has received more than $8,000 in donations. Stachel says those contributions will have a big impact, enabling her organization to provide five new $1,500 solar suitcases to clinics in need. “Most clinics have 250-750 deliveries a year,” says Stachel. “So in one year, these solar suitcases will serve approximately 2,500 mother-infant pairs.”

We Care Solar’s website received nearly 2,000 hits the day the segment was broadcast, compared to about 60 visits a day before, and Stachel says the site continues to get a steady flow of traffic.

“We’ve had inquires come to us as far as Australia,” reports Stachel. “We’ve received donations ranging from $5 to $1,000. We are touched by the $5 donations. We realize when people donate something small it really means something to them, and it is equally meaningful to us.”

Over the coming months, Stachel hopes to continue spreading the word about electricity shortages in the developing word through several high-profile partnerships. On Earth Day, this Sunday, We Care Solar is teaming up with the Grammy Award-winning band Linkin Park to promote solar suitcase projects in Uganda.

And Stachel is currently organizing a workshop in Washington, D.C., in May with the UN Foundation and the World Health Organization which will focus on energy issues and health.

Click here for more of the NewsHour’s Global Health coverage.