August 29th, 2015 marked the opening of our new Solar and Robotics Workshop in Appalachia, Virginia. This workshop came into being through a number of community partnerships and will offer learning about solar panel installation and operation, automation, and robotics. Above is the video of Elijah Kiser, a young student who has been working on robotics at our Solar and Robotics Workshop in Appalachia during this school year. Watch Elijah as he gives us a tour of what they’ve learned so far.
Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Solar jobs have increased 86% in the last four years and are growing 10 times faster than National Average Employment Growth. Our team hopes that young people will be able to explore their curiosities in these fields while they also build their resumes and learn valuable job skills in growing industries.
About our team in Appalachia
ATD Fourth World team has been working in the coalfields of southwest Virginia since 1995. Our Volunteers came to the region, not with the idea of immediately starting our project, but first to understand and join the efforts of local community development and get to know the community. Since our arrival, the team has been involved in different programs answering the needs for education, housing, and healthcare. Our first project was to offer basic computer classes to adults, in partnership with the educational program of a community center. We also became aware of the health needs of the area through community members such as Sister Bernie Kenny, a nurse practitioner who brought the Remote Area Medical program (RAM). ATD Volunteers and interns have participated in RAM since it first came in 1999.
In 2009, the team opened its own center, the Learning Co-op. The mission of the Learning Co-op is to promote the free exchange of knowledge and skills, believing that “everyone has something to teach and our learning is never finished.” The Learning Co-op is the product of community participation; a teacher at the local vocational school with current and previous students constructed the shell of the building, and college groups along with the ATD Volunteers finished the housing rehab and worked on the interior. Since its opening, the Learning Co-op has been a space for local residents to share or discover creative skills, such as culinary arts, weaving, quilting, wood running, bluegrass music, and computer skills. With the aim to bring people together, the center also welcomes people from different locations for periods of service in the community and serves as the communal place for seminars and celebrations for events such as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
After 20 years in the community, the team has taken a step further and turned to young generations. With the help of the local vocational school and friends, our new Solar and Robotics Workshop was created to support the efforts of tackling high unemployment in the area. Our workshop offers introductory classes in solar energy and robotics for adults, young adults, and high school students. We hope to give people hands-on experiences of solar and robotics technologies and especially to reach those who have given up their formal education and to rekindle their desire to continue their studies.