Who we are
&
What we're about

Our Story

Kuyere! was founded by Bereket Lebassi Habtezion (BLH) and Robert Van Buskirk (RVB) in 2015 with the support of a wonderful group of family and friends.

RVB & BLH first met and began collaborating on technology and African development 25 years ago in the newly independent country of Eritrea, East Africa in the mid-1990’s. At that time Robert was a Physics Professor teaching with a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Asmara and Bereket was one of the top Physics students at the University. Creation of the Kuyere! social enterprise is the culmination of this long-term collaboration.

After testing dozens of different solar electricity technologies and business models for access in partnership with diverse Malawian collaborators, Kuyere! has discovered how to provide extremely low-cost solar electricity to very low income Malawian villagers with Malawi-made solar systems that are battery-free and provide solar electric cooking.

We hope you will join us and help write the next chapter of Kuyere’s story as we begin our efforts to bring the benefits of extremely affordable, battery-free, off-grid solar electricity to villages throughout Malawi.

Our Founders

Dr. Bereket Lebassi Habtezion

2015 - 2018

Bereket is a meteorological and clean energy scientist. After graduating with a first degree in Physics from Asmara University in Eritrea, he worked with the national Eritrean Energy Research and Training Center setting up and operating its wind and solar resources assessment network. He has a Masters in Meteorology from San Jose State University, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Santa Clara University. After post-docs at Stanford and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Bereket was Kuyere’s founding employee/officer, getting the initial operations and systems up and running in the US and setting up the initial partnerships in Malawi.  He is now a meteorological scientist with California’s largest electric utility. 

Dr. Robert Van Buskirk

2015 - present

Robert is a Mathematical scientist that designs equations and business models that assist people to more quickly adopt and utilize clean energy technologies. He is the founder/CEO of the Kuyere enterprise.  He was born and raised in San Jose, California as the son of two math nerds that met at UC Riverside on a blind date. While growing up, he adopted mathematics as his preferred language for understanding the world around him. Ever since he was young, he knew that the gross economic inequalities that we see in our world simply did not compute. Shortly after getting his Ph.D. in Computational Physics from Harvard University in 1991, he started working and traveling in Africa to explore how technology might improve the lives of those who have the least. His first stint was working four years in the newly liberated country of Eritrea from 1993 to 1997 to help establish its clean energy research and email communications system for the country. He has been working on clean energy for Sub-Saharan Africa ever since while simultaneously pursuing a career in energy efficiency policy research. In his spare time, he likes cooking and eating what he cooks, along with inventing the next clean energy gadget that either may or may not be useful for helping other people and the planet we-all live on. 

Laurence Kachione

2015 - present

Laurence grew up in the Chiradzulu district of Blantyre, he attended Kaphuka Secondary School, and received a Diploma of Information Technology from the Institute of Technology and Management in Chichiri, Blantyre. From 2010 to 2012, he had opened an internet cafe in the Kamba area of Blantyre. Then after a short stint in France looking for career opportunities, Laurence returned to Malawi and started working as an IT consultant for the Mangochi Diocese of the Catholic Church in 2014.  Laurence met Bereket and Robert in 2015 and has been working with Kuyere ever since. As Kuyere moves forward with its mission, he wants to maksure that everything stays on track with the mission of making affordable solar systems that can be used by low-income households in remote areas. Laurence is also married and has two children: Hazel (4) and Harriet (2) and enjoys listening to Reggae music while surfing the Internet in his spare time.  His favorite sweet is a simple lollipop.

Gilbert Roberts

2015 - present

Gilbert knows the importance of solar lights from his personal experience growing up. He lived in Nauma village in Zomba district without electricity when he was young. When his mother could afford it, she would buy paraffin for lighting and he could study at night, but often she couldnt and he wasnt able to read as much as he wouldve wanted.  They would burn dry grass to create fire to read, but it wouldnt last and the smoke was too much. So when Gilbert graduated from Namitembo Secondary School, his grades were not good enough to go to college. Instead, he went to Lilongwe to train as a cell phone technician. Afterwards in 2010, Gilbert opened his own cell phone repair shop in Limbe, Blantyre where he met Bereket and Laurence in 2015 and was recruited for Kuyere. As the Chief technician, Gilbert loves assembling new parts and teaching the other technicians. Gilbert is married and has three lovely children: Mustaf (6), Edna (3) and Grace (4 months). In his spare time, Gilbert loves to watch movies and reading technical books. Taffy is his favorite sweet.

Malawi-based Partners

Getrude Chiphaka

Assembly Team Member

As the Kuyere company cook in Malawi, Gertrude enjoys cooking lunches with the solar electric cooker because it is so much easier than cooking on the charcoal fire, at least when it is sunny. She also very much enjoys listening to the radio and gospel music. Whenever Getrude can enjoy a samoza, it is a good day.

Rachel Kanyerere

Assembly Team Member

As a Kuyere technician Rachel enjoys going to the field to do installations. She feels a tremendous amount of pride in being able to make the lives of customers better. Like Christina, she is from James Village in Dedza district and was trained by Lesia Whitehurst in 2017.  Rachel graduated from Mtakataka Secondary School in Dedza. She is the mother of two young boysFrancis and Praisewho she continuously advises so that they can grow up to be independent, confident young men. Rachel enjoys watching soccer and is an avid fan of the Wonders soccer team. On hot days, she loves to enjoy an occasional cherry plum soft soda.

Andrew Kachete

Distribution Partner

As a business man, Andrew likes the unique, socially-minded approach of Kuyere.  Going to the villages, he sees the villagers daily struggles and he appreciates the Kuyere systems ability to make life a little bit easier.  His team has installed Kuyere solar systems in more than 2000 households in the last two years in MChinji, Karonga and Nkhata Bay districts. Before partnering with Kuyere, Andrew spent 12 years working in South Africa; first as a quality control technician in a pipe factory, then as a business consultant writing business plans. He is excited by the possibilities of Kuyere growing much larger than it is today.  On a more personal note, Andrew has a 22 year-old son living in Dallas, Texas that is studying engineering the University of North Texas.  In his spare time, Andrew likes reading business magazines, playing scrabble, and having an occasional Dutch chocolate.

Christina Gilbert

ASSEMBLY TEAM MEMBER

Christina is an assembly technician. Her favorite work is assembling the energy storage packs that go into Kuyeres solar systems.  She was born and raised in James Village in the Dedza district of Malawi, and was trained by Lesia Whitehurst in 2017.  Christina is a mother of two – Ireen and Elvis – who live with her parents in the village while she works in Blantyre.  In her free time, Christina enjoy listing to news programs and Malawian gospel music on the radio, and occasionally drinking a Mahewu (a Malawian milkshake).

James Majoni

Assembly Team Member

As a technician, James enjoys assembling our Malawi-made light bulbs.  He grew up in Mulanje district and then went to Rigowe Secondary school in Vumbwe, Thyolo district. James may not be the most avid, but he is definitely one of the loudest fans of the Big Bullets soccer team. You know that when the Big Bullets are playing the Wonders, Him and Rachel will have a lot to talk to about. For the games, his friends count on him to bring the beer, but away from the stadium, on hot days, James likes to drink a frozy (a semi-frozen soft drink sold widely in Malawi).

Campaign Team

Sophonie Joseph

Planner

Sophonie Milande Joseph is a Planner who enjoys the arts through street photography. She is a Ph.D. Candidate in Urban Planning at Columbia University. Her research focuses on environmental justice in the built environment of the Black diaspora. She specializes in energy justice, with an arts and data visualization focus.

Saudi Garcia

Treasurer

Saudi is a bilingual, bicultural scholar, facilitator, artist and organizer working for equity, peace and resource access for Afro-diasporic people.  She is also a medical anthropologist and political ecologist who produces high quality, policy-oriented research to advance racial and social equity in environmental health and resource governance.  Her mission is to ensure that persons marginalized by their societies have the resources they need to safeguard their environment and health in contexts of industrial pollution, dwindling natural resources and climate crisis. When not researching, writing or producing visual media, Saudi volunteers as a facilitator for In Cultured Company, an organization bringing together Dominicans and Haitians to foster peace, reconciliation, racial and social equity in their diaspora communities and on the island of Hispaniola (Kiskeya, Ayiti).

Philippe Hyppolite

Project Manager

Philippe grew up between Haiti and the United States; and speaks five languages fluently. In the future, hwants to learn and achieve proficiency in more languages. Growing up, his parents contribution to the advancement of the community is something that was instilled in him. To this day, he prides himself in helping others.  As a Human Resources Professional/Project Manager by trade and a humanitarian at heart; his education and work experience has given him the chance to learn and interact with many different cultures, especially within the Latin American and Caribbean region. As a player and fan of football (soccer), Philippe hopes to  bring more people together creating more chances and joy using the beautiful game.

Stephen Boatright

Web Support

As a cultural geographer trained in qualitative research methods, Stephen has a heightened appreciation of the significant role that place, culture, and emotion play in the development of strong interpersonal relationships and attainment of organizational goals. Engaging with diverse arrays of stakeholders, he analyzes data to identify institutional strengths, weaknesses, and untapped potential in order to develop solutions for more effective and emotionally intelligent collaboration.

Semhar Woldeyesus

Graphic Designer

Semmi W. is a journalist and designer. Based in London, Semmi enjoys using visual effects and code to help build out apps and tell interactive stories. Previously, Semmi served on NPR’s National Arts Desk, helping to produce segments for news programs like Morning Edition, and All Things Considered. At ABC News, Semmi worked behind the camera, covering the 2012 presidential election and primary campaigns. In 2011, Semmi earned her master’s at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her articles and data visualizations have appeared in several outlets, including Fuse TV, Revolt TV, and The Genteel, where she served as the magazine’s New York correspondent, covering fashion and art trends. Catch her latest musings on tech and culture at Art Party. To learn more about Semmi, visit semmiw.com. Or connect with her directly on Twitter or Instagram via @semmiw.

ActivEngagement

Content curation

Charlene

ActivEngagement (AE) is a digital marketing agency focused on increasing engagement for brands across social media. Behind AE operations are Charlene St. Clair, Account Manager, and Quinn Cummings, Lead Strategist. Our goal for Kuyere is for the mission, beliefs, and values to be accessible to all. To give the community the freedom to engage at their own level. We have a background in community and relationship building. We have grown communities within the medical field, associations, event venues, and entrepreneurs alike.

Quinn