How everything began
In 2007 Humasol started with a model, three members and €1000. The model was and still is to let engineering students implement a renewable energy development project, during summer, that can be integrated as part of their curriculum. The project planning and design are done under rigorous supervision by the project promoter(s), during the year preceding the implementation. Over time the model has been fine-tuned and has reached maturity. As a result, Humasol now has around 25 active members to sustain and improve the concept. Thanks to the gained experience, acquired knowhow and commitment of our members, more and more financial partners began to believe in our vision; resulting in a 2010 budget of €30000. Through further professionalization we strive to confirm and consolidate our growth while continually improving the quality and reliability of our projects.
Our organization’s name, “Humasol”, comes from: Humahuaca, sol (sun), humanitarian and solidarity. The first two terms are related to our first project (a solar boiler) in Humahuaca (Argentina). The other two are more generic term usually associated with non-profit organizations devoted to development cooperation.
The first project, a solar boiler in Humahuaca (Argentina, 2007), came to life rather by coincidence and initiated the birth of Humasol. While traveling through Argentina, Dieter Duyck (Humasol co-founder) stayed some time in a residence in Humahuaca. Situated in the Argentinian high north close to the Bolivian border, Humahuaca is a relatively poor region, mostly populated by a native Indian population. The residence - at the time only half finished – offers children from the region a place to sleep, to allow them to go to school. The founding father of the residence asked Dieter, a freshly graduated engineer, to help him with the construction of a solar boiler. Warm water was a necessity since temperatures can be very low (up to -20°C), moreover the sensitizing effect on the surrounding population could be huge. Both aspects seemed interesting an caught Dieters attention. The solar boiler was built shortly after Dieters visit to the residence by his colleague and friend Jeroen Devos, according a literature study done by Dieter. After the project Dieter and Jeroen presented their project a few times to collect the money to fund the project.
Meanwhile Dieter and Jeroen had become active as engineers. Furthermore Dieter became member of “ingenieurs zonder grenzen”. In 2008 Dieter and Jeroen recognized the nonexistence of a Belgian non-profit organization offering freshly graduated engineers or engineering students the possibility to undertake a project like their own. Moreover, they realized from their university experience that no proper organized internships were possible abroad, let alone development cooperation internships. Determined to fill the gap, they decided to found Humasol.
Humahuaca 2009, A Pilot project
After the foundation of the organization, the first definition of Humasol’s mission statement and vision took place in parallel with the implementation of the first “Humasol” labeled project. Humasol defined itself as the link between: a local partner with a need for knowledge, students with a need for practical challenge & international experience and the professional world keen to support young talent thought expertise & funding. A pilot project, i.e. the construction of a small wind turbine in Humahuaca (Argentina), was required to validate the model and vision. Joris Van Steenwinkel and Stijn Behets responded to the announcement in the engineering periodical of the Catholic University Leuven. Together with 6 other Humasol members they organized and prepared the project. Humasol members only provided project follow-up and fundraising. The project was of course implemented on site by the project students and the locals. The project went fairly well, the turbine was successfully build and the project students were enthusiastic about their experience. The pilot was a success and expansion to multiple projects and locations seemed the way to go to further improve the model and modus operandi of the organization.
Confirmation of the vision and organizational consolidation
The 2009-2010 projects definitely confirmed the soundness of the model. A new project partner was found in La Cascarilla (Peru) and a return to Humahuaca was organized. Six projects were selected, i.e. construction of two solar boilers, a wind turbine, a water turbine, an electricity grid and a biomass digester for gas production. To select the right students a full blown recruiting campaign at the Catholic university Leuven and the Lessius institution was undertaken. Twelve students were selected, one “industrial” engineer and twelve “civil” engineers (Belgian terms to differentiate between the 4 year High school and the 5 year university engineering education programs). The amount of projects and their size required a significant resource growth. The necessary funding would only be found if the model was welcomed by companies, Belgian administration and government. Through private and public funding Humasol managed to cover for all projects. A side effect of the challenge to manage all projects, Humasol acquired a great deal of organizational experience. All students were enthusiastic about their experience and many reinforced the member ranks after their project. With this new “work force” Humasol was ready to professionalize its organization structure.
In 2010 the mission statement was fine-tuned: “Making renewable energy technologies accessible to everyone”. The mission statement rests on three pillars: (1) Perform developing collaboration in the field of ecological/sustainable engineering by offering both financial and technical support; (2) Collaborate with a local partner to enable him/her to maintain, repair and reproduce installations in his community; (3) Offer professional guidance to project students
Further professionalization and creation of essential functions
Instead of three founders we are in 2010-2011 with 24. The turnover is gone up from €1000 to roughly €30000. We have the manpower to consolidate and create management functions: Communications, projects, recruiting, finance and secretary guided by a president and united in the board of directors. For each function a job description is designed and tested. An official call for projects is issued and a new partner was found in Senegal. In total 20 student were selected to design and implement 7 projects. Each project has its own project promoter(s) to offer guidance to the students assigned to his project and interface between his student and the management team. Public relations is improved with a new website and a newsletter; we also appear in several articles in a variety of media. To conclude, we revised the financial aspect as well with the writing of a decent sponsor request document, the ability to issue tax certificates to private contributors and the creation of a professional accountancy framework. Humasol has become a mature organization striving year after year to improve its projects quality and reliability.