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Yukon University students go to Peru to install solar panels on school

The group in Peru, in front of one of the buildings they installed the solar project on. (Submitted by Isabelle Thériault - image credit)
The group in Peru, in front of one of the buildings they installed the solar project on. (Submitted by Isabelle Thériault - image credit)

A group of university students from the Yukon, B.C. and the N.W.T. travelled to a remote Peruvian community recently to work alongside Indigenous community members and install four large solar panels on an elementary school that previously had no electricity.

The 1.5-kW system went up in Santa Rosa de Llillinta, said Tara Stehelin, chair of Yukon University's school of science and one of the project organizers.

Aside from the school, it also provides enough power for internet service.

One of the buildings in Peru where the solar project was installed. The group traveled to Santa Rosa de Llillinta, a small and remote community in Peru.
One of the buildings in Peru where the solar project was installed. The group traveled to Santa Rosa de Llillinta, a small and remote community in Peru.

One of the buildings in Peru where the solar project was installed. The group travelled to Santa Rosa de Llillinta, a small and remote community in Peru. (Submitted by Isabelle Thériault)

After the installation, the community threw a feast for the visitors as a celebration. There, students heard what electricity means to the community.

Ivan Martinez Gonzalez, an electrical student at North Island College in B.C. who just finished his first year-apprenticeship, said it was an emotional event.

"Sometimes we almost cried," Gonzalez said.

"The peak of this project for me … is seeing how one little thing can help the community."

Isabelle Thériault and a one-week old alpaca with other students and a community leader.
Isabelle Thériault and a one-week old alpaca with other students and a community leader.

Isabelle Thériault, centre, hugs a one-week old alpaca. (Submitted by Tara Stehelin)

A river in Peru, the group faced many challenges both expected and unexpected such as flooding.
A river in Peru, the group faced many challenges both expected and unexpected such as flooding.

A river in Peru, the group faced many challenges both expected and unexpected such as flooding. (Submitted by Isabelle Thériault)

Along with Yukon University, the project was in partnership with Aurora College, North Island College and the charity Light Up The World. Part of the mandate of Light Up The World is focusing on students from northern and remote communities to have an international experience.

The multi-disciplinary group was composed of various different programs such as renewable resource management, northern environmental and conservation sciences, earth sciences, as well as trades students. Nine of the 12 students were from Yukon University.

The group on their way to the community of Santa Rosa.
The group on their way to the community of Santa Rosa.

The group on their way to the community of Santa Rosa. (Submitted by Isabelle Thériault)

Isabelle Thériault is a Northern environmental and conservation science student in her second year of study at Yukon University's Ayamdigut Campus.

Thériault talked about how different and meaningful it was to reconnect with her peers outside of the classroom.

"You see them in the classroom but it's difficult to actually make conversation. So it was really amazing to to really truly get to know the other folks."

The solar installation project came after years of planning, according to Yukon University, and gave students hands-on experience with wiring and construction.