Solar Power

February 13 2023 | by

A HEALTH centre known as Busakizi and dedicated to the founder of the Xaverian Missionary Fathers, Saint Guido Maria Conforti, has been operating in the town of Kitutu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, for over 20 years. It is managed by local staff under the responsibility of the parish priests.

Busakizi was in the process of equipping itself with a small operating room – mainly for gynaecological interventions and particularly for C-sections – but there was a problem: the lack of a reliable electricity supply. “There is no state power line in this area of the country,” explains Father Davide Marcheselli, a Kitutu parish priest on a mission from the diocese of Bologna, Italy. “As a result, we opted for the installation of private photovoltaic panels to serve the entire structure of the Centre – not just the operating room, but also for diagnostic instruments such as microscopes, ultrasound and ECG machines, computers, and other electrical devices; refrigerators for storing blood, vaccines and medicines; and day- and night-time lighting requirements.” The implementation of the project would make the services offered by Busakizi more reliable, and would alleviate problems in supply previously faced by patients and staff.


Rural town


Kitutu, with its 50,000 strong population, lies to the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the province of South Kivu. It is connected to the provincial capital, Bukava, by a 240 km stretch of the RN2 (national road number 2), which is in terrible condition. It is a rural town and the population live mainly from products from the fields and fishing. The number of inhabitants has increased greatly in the last few years due to the insecurity in the area, which is driving more and more to seek a safer future in the cities rather than in the countryside.

Kitutu parish was founded in 1967, and offers services not only to Kitutu town, but also to 13 other communities. Since its inception, the parish has lived its mission to proclaim the Gospel trying to integrate pastoral care with social services attentive to the material needs of the entire population residing within its borders. There are two parish priests: Father Davide Marcheselli and Father Pier SX, and a Xaverian, Alphonse Shokano. They’re supported in their work by four Sisters of The Sisters of Mercy, together with many lay people, including the ‘waongozi’ (or guardians), the heads of the Christian communities.


Twenty-four panels


The total cost for the project, including all materials and installation, amounted to some € 21,500. After taking into account local contributions, and the willingness of the locals to arrange transport of materials from Bukavu, to house and feed the technician who would come to install the equipment, and the willingness of the Centre staff to have training to take responsibility for the operation of the photovoltaic panels, the sum of € 17,000 was granted by St. Anthony’s Charities.

The first part of the project was purchasing the equipment. A sum of around € 8,400 was received on July 20, 2022, and a trip to Bakuva was undertaken soon after in order to buy twenty-four 450 watt photovoltaic panels and sixteen 220 Ah batteries. Transportation of the heavy load to Kitutu was also arranged – 1,120 kg of batteries and 600 kg of panels! But there were a couple of problems. “There was a shortage of batteries in Bakuva, which forced us to look for them in Goma, the capital of North Kivu,” reports Fr. Davide. “And we also discovered that the installation technician wouldn’t be available until after the end of August. This pushed the project back by around 20 days.”


Immediate benefit


The second instalment was used to purchase and install inverters of 5,000 watts each and two charge controllers. It was also used to buy lighting protection, connectors, cables, switches, fuses, and other miscellaneous supplies that were needed to complete the works. An Italian volunteer technician arrived in Kitutu, where he and a local electrician mounted the photovoltaic panels and set up the system together. The project luckily came to a successful conclusion on September 10, 2022. “Other equipment for the centre, not associated with this project, was stuck in Bukavu because of a fallen bridge on the RN2,” says Fr. Davide.

“The effect of the installation has been immediate,” Fr.  Davide continues. “The Centre is now using the electricity to power a refrigerator for storing medicines and blood, and also to power microscopes, the ultrasound machine, computers and lighting.” It has even been discovered that during the day, the panels produce enough current to power a further computer room which could, in the future, be made available to schools for both teachers and students. “We may also use the supply to illuminate the library, study room, and meeting centre used extensively by the local population,” adds Fr. Davide.

The photovoltaic panels provide a constant and safe current. The electricity they supply covers most of the Centre’s needs during the day, and is sufficient for the night. The Centre is no longer dependent on the parish generators so there are no emergencies or delays in supply. Looking to the future, the Centre has also set up a fund which will be used for the ordinary and any extraordinary maintenance of the entire system.


Deep gratitude


“Thank you very much for supporting our work, which will enable a large improvement in the services provided to the local population,” says Fr. Davide. “These days we are working on many things besides the normal administration of the parish, including new schools and making improvements to existing ones; obtaining Hospital Centre status for our own Busakizi Health Centre; negotiating a permit for constructing a new health centre, and supporting many small Christian communities in the construction of small chapels for communal prayer. We ask for your prayers for the success of these initiatives, and we thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.”

“Dear friends of St. Anthony’s Charities,” concludes Fr. Pier, “thank you for your closeness. There are times when it is difficult to find help, and yours has been more than precious.”


Updated on February 13 2023