On Thursday, February 1, a group of HOWA volunteers and BYOV solar system recipients gathered at the historic Gold Rock Ranch RV Park in Winterhaven, CA, for HOWA’s Winter 2024 BYOV (Bring Your Own Vehicle) event.
Each BYOV is a perfect example of the heart of HOWA’s mission to change lives, build a supportive community, and prevent homelessness, and this winter was no exception. Thanks to the generous support of Lectric eBikes, seventeen deserving nomads received the keys to a more sustainable and empowered life on the road.
The gift of power: more than just energy
Each of the twelve recipients received a 200W solar system, a comprehensive package including solar panels, a lithium battery, solar charge controller, wiring, fuses, and all the other essentials for a safe, standalone power system.
But this event provided more than electric power. Nearly every recipient in attendance talked about freedom and self-sufficiency as the most life-changing gift they were receiving.
Many have been forced to buy ice every few days to keep their food or medications cold. Others have had to deal with dead phones, CPAP machines, and other devices meant to keep them safe and connected to friends and family while on the road.
These solar systems will empower recipients to meet the basic needs that so many take for granted: the ability to safely store food, charge devices, take medication, and seek the community support we all need.
Stories from the road: the impact of solar
This year’s recipients ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-seventies, with home states spanning from coast to coast. Some are making the best life they can imagine for themselves on a limited budget. Others have chosen nomadic life as an alternative to high-crime neighborhoods back home.
Until now, Havoc has relied on a small solar panel to keep her phone charged, leaving her out of touch on cloudy days. She’s looking forward to spending more time in nature now that she won’t have to stay so close to town for basic services and to buy ice.
The ability to get further into nature is especially important to Aimee, an introvert who has found that five years on the road without a fridge has taken its toll. “This power system means that I won’t have to worry. Emotionally, physically … It’s going to improve everything,” she said through tears.
For Andi, who has food-related health issues, the inability to properly refrigerate her food had medical implications. Michele and Liz also talked about how hard it is to cook and eat healthy food when you can’t safely store it—a worry they’re thrilled to leave behind them.
Other nomads mentioned other quality-of-life changes they’re grateful for, too. “This means everything to me,” said Belinda, who will be able to power a 12-volt fridge and run a fan in the summer to keep herself and her dogs cool.
Learning and connection
The winter BYOV event kicked off with informative sessions led by knowledgeable volunteers, educating recipients about the safety, capabilities, and maintenance of their new solar power systems. Afterward, volunteers and recipients gathered under HOWA’s canopies to stay dry in the rain and share a pizza lunch, fostering a sense of community and gratitude among grantees, volunteers, and staff.
The nomadic lifestyle can be isolating at times. At BYOV and other HOWA events like Caravans, nomads can find a sense of belonging and mutual support. This BYOV event was a vivid demonstration of what is possible when people come together to support each other.
Why BYOV makes a difference
- Empowerment: From charging cell phones to powering CPAP machines, solar-powered electrical systems offer nomads a much-needed lifeline.
- Freedom: Without dependency on coolers, our friends can store their food safely and stay at dry camping spots longer, reducing their spending on fuel and ice.
- Community: Every BYOV creates a sense of belonging and support among nomads, forming a vibrant community united by shared experiences and helping hands.
How you can help
HOWA provides nomads with:
- Basic goods and supplies to help make vehicles into functional, safe, and secure dwellings
- Transition assistance into a financially and environmentally sustainable mobile lifestyle
- Events and gatherings to connect with the nomadic community
- Opportunities to give back and improve the lives of other nomads, area communities, and our public lands
Our journey of empowering nomads is far from over, and the support of the community remains as vital as ever.
To those moved by the stories of transformation and community at the BYOV event, we invite you to join us. Whether through donations, volunteering, or simply sharing our mission, your support makes a difference. Together, we can continue to change lives and protect the confidence, self-sufficiency, and dignity of those we serve.
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Post written by Sarah Kuiken