Meet a Zoomer: Laura Patel, Program Manager April 30 2015
The EWB-UK Placements Program engages skilled volunteers to assist organizations that work to reduce poverty and overcome challenges to human development. Through this, I came to Kenya to support a program with Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP), providing technical advisory services to micro entrepreneurs in the energy sector. This included businesses involved in energy efficient cook stoves, biogas and other forms of fuel such as briquettes and understanding their viability as an alternative technology solution.
My six-month placement turned into a year, after which the organization offered me a permanent role! I started to hone my expertise in the clean cooking sector working on country analysis projects in East Africa. I continued to work closely with local energy businesses to support them in product development, testing and marketing for their products. As a team, we were able to increase funding opportunities for these businesses, increase the quality of their products and raise awareness on the issues surrounding clean cooking, impacting both their livelihoods and the lives of end users.
I came to EcoZoom after working at GVEP, and I’m proud to be here. At EcoZoom, I not only get the opportunity to work, but to be in a position to shape new opportunities and drive them forward to contribute to our vision. The products are functional and efficient, and they’re also sleek and modern. Our products exceed the expectation of the end user. We are on the front line, alleviating energy poverty in Kenya and in regions around the world.
For me, Nairobi is just like any other metropolitan city. We have great restaurants and the people are very hospitable. It’s the city where I met my husband, where I’ve made great friends and where I found the career I am passionate about. The mentality toward alternative sources of energy in Kenya is very encouraging. People here are open-minded and eager to embrace new technologies within the clean energy space. This differs from some attitudes in western countries, where all it takes is the flick of a switch and there is light. People don’t take energy for granted here – in rural Kenya, women can spend close to two hours a day searching for firewood. Energy-saving technologies and alternative fuels can have a huge impact on people’s lives.
Looking back, I am grateful I studied Mathematics and Engineering. It gave me a great foundation and helped me develop a logical way of approaching problems. I have since moved from the technical side of things into a project management role, with no regrets whatsoever. My vision for EcoZoom is to become a leader in energy solutions and to be at the forefront of innovative new technologies in the sector.