Energy ♦ Youth ♦ Opportunity
The Strongest Oak Foundation (TSO) is an international non-profit organization that equips remote African villages with solar power to increase their economic prosperity and educational opportunities. Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, TSO has helped youth (our “Oaks”) achieve life-changing personal, educational or professional goals, with the ultimate goal of them becoming financially self-sustaining. As part of our solar power initiative, we support internships in renewable energy to disadvantaged African youth.
Our program has evolved through the years. Initially, our energies were directed towards supporting our Oaks in completing their educations. We soon learned that education is not enough to secure the Oaks’ futures. Each year, thousands of university graduates flood the African job market; however, there are too many candidates for the extremely scarce number of jobs, and the few employers who are hiring require relevant work experience. To address this, and bolster our Oaks’ chances for success, we introduced an internship program, in which we sponsor part-time internships in partnership with local employers. The employers provide our Oaks with the practical work experience required to secure a future job or to launch a small business or social venture. In-country TSO mentors (Oak Leaders) help ensure the Oaks stay on track with their goals and on-budget with their financial supporters.
In 2015, members of TSO’s board acted as consultants/advisors to the 2020 graduating class of Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School in their project to deliver solar electricity to a remote Burkinabe village called Pa. The Pa project was a tremendous success and inspired TSO to add a new dimension to its own future service offerings. In 2016, we combined the best practices and learnings from our prior Oak Internship Program with the locally-driven service model of the Pa project by launching the TSO Solar Energy Program. The program 1) equips schools in remote, economically-challenged, communities with solar panels, thereby providing them safe, clean and reliable lighting and electricity and 2) gives TSO the unique opportunity to offer “green” internships to Oaks seeking careers in clean energy. These projects not only benefit our Oaks but also benefit everyone in the community by giving them access to electricity.
During a 2017 site visit to our solar installations in Burkina Faso, TSO conducted a needs assessment and learned that economic development in poor, remote, off-grid Burkina villages could be realised through the availability of sufficient, reliable electricity and Internet access. This led to the genesis of the Solar Village of the Future program, where a Power Hub (solar-powered nanogrid) can generate enough electricity to support various small industries and services. Pâ village in Burkina Faso was chosen to be the first, prototype Solar Village of the Future, acting as a model for future power hub installations.
TSO currently operates exclusively in Burkina Faso. We previously operated in Rwanda and Uganda and also supported Oaks from DR Congo.TSO is a secular, international development organization. However, from time to time, some individuals with religious affiliations participate in TSO projects.