Part of complete coverage on
Lighting the way for safe childbirth
March 15, 2013 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
- The "solar suitcases" designed by We Care Solar are saving lives around the world
- Many mothers, babies are dying because their health facilities lack reliable electricity
- One of the solar kits also helped during a recent cholera outbreak in the Congo
(CNN) -- Solar energy in a suitcase is an invention saving lives around the world in places that lack reliable electricity.
Dr. Laura Stachel discovered several years ago that many women and babies were dying during childbirth simply because there wasn't adequate light to treat them. So she and her husband came up with a portable solar energy kit to provide light and power when necessary.
Since 2009, their nonprofit, We Care Solar, has given out nearly 250 free kits to medical facilities in Africa, Asia and South America.
"A lot of the clinics don't have any electricity," Stachel said. "Midwives use kerosene lanterns; they may use candles; they use their cell phones to deliver babies."
The "solar suitcase" was designed to help during childbirth, but one recently came in handy when there was a cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On his first day with the kit, a doctor from the Congo delivered a woman with twins. The very next day, there was an outbreak of cholera, a deadly bacterial disease.
CNN Hero: Dr. Laura Stachel
"Every man, woman and child who came to his clinic over the next 30 days were treated day and night," Stachel said. "And he put 15 mats on the ground outside because so many people needed to be cared for and couldn't fit in the clinic."
At night, Stachel said, the doctor would take the solar suitcase outside and use it to tend to his patients and treat them with intravenous medications.
"For the first time in the history of (the doctor's) island, no one died of cholera," Stachel said. "He told us that in the past, 50% of patients would die, and 80% of those deaths would happen at night."
Stachel says she cried when she heard the story, and she hopes her nonprofit can continue to help more people in need.
"One of the things I do whenever I bring a solar suitcase to a clinic in another country is, I really let the health-care workers know that there are people on the other side of the world who care about them," she said.
"I say: 'When you use this suitcase and it's late at night, don't think that nobody's caring about what you're doing. You have sisters and brothers on the other side of the world that cared enough to actually contribute to this and to bring you light. I don't want you to feel alone."
Read the full story about Stachel and her work with We Care Solar
Want to get involved? Check out the We Care Solar website at wecaresolar.org and see how to help.
Part of complete coverage on
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 0303 GMT (1103 HKT)
Chad Pregracke, who has dedicated his life to cleaning the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways, is the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 0256 GMT (1056 HKT)
CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke pledged to give $10,000 of his winnings to each of the other top 10 Heroes.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
Celebrities joined CNN in New York to honor this year's top 10 Heroes.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
They clean up rivers, build homes for disabled veterans and bring health care to some of the darkest parts of the world.
October 16, 2013 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
It was supposed to be a routine patrol in Iraq. But when the Humvee he was in veered slightly off the road, Dale Beatty's life changed forever.
November 3, 2013 -- Updated 2346 GMT (0746 HKT)
Dr. George Bwelle travels through Cameroon's jungles to provide free medical care for thousands.
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
Many Americans lack easy access to fresh, healthy food. That isn't acceptable to Robin Emmons.
October 28, 2013 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Foster children don't often get the things that other children do, but one group is trying to help change that.
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 2325 GMT (0725 HKT)
For many people, the violence in Camden, New Jersey, can make it feel more like a war zone than an American city.
November 13, 2013 -- Updated 2144 GMT (0544 HKT)
For many children fighting cancer, it can be extremely tough to make their chemotherapy appointments.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 0047 GMT (0847 HKT)
When Kakenya Ntaiya was 14, she negotiated a deal with her father: I'll endure female circumcision if you let me finish high school.
November 18, 2013 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Chad Pregracke has made it his life's mission to clean up the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Estella Pyfrom noticed that fewer students had access to a computer after school. So she bought a bus and brought technology to the kids.
October 13, 2013 -- Updated 2339 GMT (0739 HKT)
In many countries, mothers are dying during childbirth -- not because they lack skilled doctors, but because they lack reliable electricity.
Today's five most popular stories