Responding to a critical need of people in war-torn Ukraine, the Lander Rotary Club has sent 16 solar panels converted into cell phone chargers to various groups in Ukraine, and more will soon be on the way.
Recently, several Pathfinder High School students in Samuel Hartpence’s math class had a fun, impactful lesson, attaching converters to the solar panels and writing encouraging messages to the Ukrainians who will use the converted panels to charge their cell phones. Hartpence related that the students in his math class and his robotics club "love to tinker," and the project seemed like a great fit.  The chargers that the students worked on are being sent to a high school in Ukraine and already a pen pal relationship has started to develop!
Ken Schreuder, a retired engineer and member of the Lander Rotary Club, has spearheaded the project since its beginning in summer 2023.  Schreuder said that the solar panels can be turned into chargers that charge two to four cell phones in about two hours, just by adding a simple converter.  Ideally, used solar panels that have reached the end of their useful lives would be used for the project, but they have been hard to find, so new, smaller panels are being used.

“We’re doing this because the people in Ukraine rely on their cell phones for their lifeline,” Schreuder explained. “These allow them to charge their cell phones and not rely on the power grid, which is very unstable.”  With charged cell phones, the Ukrainians can receive important news and alerts, such as evacuation orders and air raid warnings, and stay in touch with friends and relatives who may be in dangerous areas.  Schreuder is hopeful that several converted panels can be shipped soon to a Rotarian Interact club in Lutsk, Ukraine, for use in a rehabilitation center.

Encouraging messages are written on the backs of the panels to let the people of Ukraine know that the American people support them.  “This is one way we can let them know that America has not forgotten them,” Schreuder said.  Schreuder also joins in on Zoom calls with Ukrainian Rotarians and others arranged by Andy Lenec, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine who lives in Colorado and started the panel conversions project last year.
The cost of attaching a voltage converter to a panel and shipping the panel to Ukraine is about $120.  Donations to support the project can be made to the Lander Rotary club at P.O. Box 502, Lander 82520 or electronically by connecting through the link in the following story. 
(Pictured: Encouraging messages and drawings are written and drawn on the backs of the solar panels.)