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Friends Unite Completes Solar Project as part of its Efforts to Help Advance Education in Rural India

(April 19, 2012) Raleigh, NC – Friends Unite, a Raleigh based non-profit focused on providing the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves, today announced that it has completed a solar energy project as part of its efforts to help advance education in rural India.

In spring 2011, Friends Unite announced it had partnered with Brahmi, a non-governmental organization in India, and SELCO Solar India, a private company that provides sustainable energy solutions and services to under-served households and businesses, to install solar panels at the Anjana Vidyakendra School in Guttahali Village near Bangalore, India. In addition to using sustainable methods to provide a more reliable source of electricity to the school, the project was also designed to enhance educational opportunities through the creation of a computer lab.

The solar energy project at the Anjana Vidyakendra School was funded and implemented in three phases. In phase one, funded up front by Friends Unite, the solar panels were installed, generating enough electricity to consistently power 20 computers that had previously been donated to the school. Fundraising for phase two, the installation of interior lighting, began on April 1 as part of Friends Unite’s participation in GlobalGiving’s Open Challenge, in which all participating organizations were required to raise $4,000 from at least 50 donors by April 30, 2011.  Friends Unite exceeded this goal, raising $5,885 from 77 donors via Global Giving. Funding for phase three was recently completed through individual and corporate donations, covering the cost to install much-needed exterior lighting at the school.

“Partnering with SELCO and Brahmi on this solar project has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Murali Bashyam, president of Friends Unite.  “My wife and I visited the Anjana Vidyakendra School during a recent trip to India, and we were able to see first-hand the excitement of the students as they worked in their fully powered computer lab. At one point, they were given the option to take recess or continue working, and 100 percent of them voted to continue working on the computers!”

Shortly after the solar panels were installed, Dr. Channa Raju, the school’s founder, emailed Friends Unite to state that for the first time in 10 years, students were able to have uninterrupted use of their computers despite widespread power disruptions in the community.

“This project has been an excellent example of how a for-profit company, a non-profit organization, and individuals can come together to make a tremendous difference,” said Bashyam.  “We hope to replicate this type of partnership in the future to execute similar projects that fit within the Friends Unite mission.”

Through the fundraising process, Friends Unite connected with a local Girl Scout troop, whose members collected used books and educational software tools to send to students at the Anjana Vidyakendra School. The Girl Scouts and the students in India have since started a pen pal program and continue to stay in touch.

“This is what Friends Unite is all about…bringing people and organizations together and building lasting connections,” said Bashyam. “The solar project is complete, but the relationships we have built with Brahmi, Selco and the Girl Scouts are just getting started.”

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