Santa Ynez Valley Journal Article
For Make Cents, the goal is no more babies born by flashlight
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
It is somewhat ironic that he calls to postpone his interview so he can drive himself to the clinic to get a yellow fever shot.
In a few weeks time, Caio Motta will be traveling to rural Ghana with two other Santa Ynez Valley Union High School students.
Merrill Weber and Beth McGowan will join him in an effort to bring assistance to a small medical clinic built by local social entrepreneur Jesse Rohde, whose mother was a long-time art teacher at Santa Ynez.
Rohde is a medical doctor and the force behind the Rohde Foundation, which is sponsoring the trip.
“All three of these students are representative of the kind of fantastic kids we have here at our school,” says Tory Babcock, who has had the three in her AP English classes.
In 2009, in Kwahu – the eastern region of Ghana – the Rohde Foundation opened the Oworobong Clinic with 400 patients lining up to be seen. Ultimately, the aim is to provide for the upward of 50,000 who live outside the areas where care is available now. Local students are encouraged to help through the Make Cents campaign.
Caio joined Make Cents his freshman year at the high school where the program functions as a club. Caio is also member of the Rotary-sponsored Interact Club which will host a fundraiser for the clinic in March.
Merrill and Beth joined at the end of their sophomore year when an on-campus event drew their attention to the cause. “You’ve probably seen the boxes around town,” says Caio. Club members involve local business owners and employees in the campaign by having them ask customers to “leave their change” on the 1st and 15th of each month. The students collect the funds and forward to the foundation.
Then last September, Beth’s family hosted a breakfast meeting for local Make Cents officers that Rohde attended. “That was amazing,” says Merrill. Both girls were moved by the stories and the photos. Their parents, having met Rohde, were on board with their going to lend a helping hand. The group travels the first week in March.
The girls are not exactly sure what their roles will be – something along the lines of registering patients, weighing babies or whatever they are called upon to do, they say enthusiastically.
But to Caio, his mission is clear – to bring solar electricity to the clinic. The nearest location with standard electricity is two hours away by car. At the moment, things at the clinic that need power are run by battery. “There is a possibility that we can install an outlet to charge 12-volt batteries,” he says excitedly.
“Caio is a character. He’s very bright, very inquisitive,” says Babcock. “He gets this look on his face and then he just starts talking.”
The system will use solar panels to collect the sun’s energy, storing it in batteries, Caio says passionately. While there won’t be sufficient power to run normal appliances, it will run bright LED lights and other small D.C.-powered items, says the teen who expects to major in engineering in college.
Working with Gary Gordon of Santa Ynez Valley Solar, who will be joining the three on the trip, Caio is learning how to build the solar-powered lighting system at Gordon’s Windhaven Glider Rides office.
“We are designing the system to be set up easily and essentially be bulletproof,” says Caio. He is looking forward not only to building it again on-site in Oworobong, but “I hope to be able to teach someone the basics,” – just in case, he says with a casual smile.
It will take the entire week they are in Ghana to wire all 11 rooms of the clinic including the main ward which also serves as the local hospital, says Gordon. No more will babies be born by flashlight or sutures stitched by kerosene lamp. Rohde has dedicated his life to providing health care services to the world’s poor – raising the standard of health care in rural Africa through prevention, education, clinic construction, access to health care and rural African job creation. The three local teens are thrilled to be a part of all that, they say.
Having the opportunity to learn how to build a solar system while also helping the clinic is especially thrilling, says Caio, who hopes to attend Yale University in the fall.
“Personally for me, I love that he is interested in solar energy,” says his mother, Wendy Motta. Caio has been interested in science since he was a preschooler. “He was always asking questions, but he is the one with the answers these days.”
The foundation will purchase virtually all of the materials once they get to Africa, both to save on shipping costs and to help stimulate the local economy. “Luckily, the heavy stuff is already there in the capital of Ghana,” says Gordon. They will carry the LED bulbs with them though. The bulbs are fairly hearty and safe for travel.
A single bulb uses only 5 watts of energy and is 10 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, says Gordon as he guides Caio, who is focused on splitting wires. Caio looks up only momentarily from his task to smile.
The 17-year-old may be venturing far from home, but his mom isn’t worried about the high school senior. He is a seasoned traveler, she says. The suitcases the three will bring will only contain items to be donated to the village. Everything for their personal use they will carry in their backpacks.
Caio smiles, shrugs. It’s no problem. The girls don’t seem to mind, either.
Looking at the YouTube video clips from years past, Wendy Motta finds herself in awe. “It is amazing what they have accomplished.” She can’t wait to see the photos Caio – a photography buff – will bring back.
“It’s pretty amazing this foundation came out of our little Valley,” says the proud mother. It is just as amazing that our teens pitch in to help keep it growing.
For more information, visit jesserohdefoundation.org.
Rohde Foundation Videos