HDR Foundation Grant: Green Empowerment

Green Empowerment

HDR Foundation grant bringing encore performance to Nicaragua

Last May, a group of 14 HDR employees found themselves in Nicaragua, dancing late into the night with members of a local community. They were dancing in celebration after a large grant from the HDR Foundation allowed them to bring clean water and renewable energy to the Boaco region of the country.

Now, they'll have the chance for an encore.

The HDR Foundation has awarded another large grant to Green Empowerment, a Portland-based nonprofit that partners with rural communities and NGOs in developing countries. The grant will allow for three more years of projects and equipment for HDR employee volunteers traveling to Nicaragua. The funds will cover project and equipment costs for installation of solar-powered water pumps, solar home systems, patio gardens and improved cook stoves.

If it's anything like the original HDR trip to the country, volunteers will get much more out of it than a chance to provide solar energy. 

"The most rewarding aspect to me was watching lives of everyone involved change," said Chris Baker, a substation EIT II in HDR's Portland office and the employee sponsor for the grant. "As an engineer, I get really excited about the technology. However, I get even more excited about the interaction between the volunteers and locals."

Now, Baker will have more chances to develop those relationships. 

"From the very beginning, the foundation members were more than supportive," Baker said. "It was very clear that the foundation wants the organizations that it supports to excel. Typically, a nonprofit has to be reactionary, since they don't know what funding will be available. Now, for the next three years Green Empowerment can be strategic in project planning and development to fully leverage the finances."

In all, more than 50 HDR employees volunteered their time to help with the original project. Of those, employees from the Portland, Oregon; Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania; and Irvine, California, offices traveled to Nicaragua. Chris expects even more participation this time around, with the 2016 team already including employees from Portland; Phoenix; Omaha, Nebraska; Sacramento, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Irvine, California; Tampa, Florida; Miami Lakes, Florida; and Boise, Idaho.

The 2016 team will travel to Nicaragua from May 27 through June 5. HDR employees not going on the trip are playing their part, too, donating school supplies and recess equipment—especially baseball equipment.  

Baker has returned to Nicaragua twice since May to complete additional projects covered by the original grant and to collect photos and interviews for the HDR Foundation and Green Empowerment. 

"It was beyond rewarding seeing the intended results of the projects realized—children studying under the lights and large crops harvested because of the solar irrigation," Baker said. "I've completed around 150 similar projects internationally and every time I see these moments, I'm left speechless knowing that I got to play a part in making that happen. This project was even more special because I got to share these moments with people that are coworkers and friends."

With the all-around effort from the HDR Foundation and HDR employees, hopes are that there will be a lot more celebratory dancing in the coming years.

About the HDR Foundation

The HDR Foundation was founded in 2012 and has provided more than half a million dollars in grants to local organizations—fueled by donations from HDR employees. The foundation provides grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribal governments, and to political subdivisions, such as school districts or libraries. Our giving is targeted to the communities in which our employees live and work, focusing on the U.S. or organizations that support global initiatives. Grant recipients are also required to align with HDR's areas of focus, which include education, healthcare and healthy communities, and healthy environments.