I ran into Ben Cornell at his parents’ (Lois and Linc) 60th birthday party three weeks ago. The last time I had seen him was at his wedding to Adriana three years ago. I learned at the birthday party that a lot of amazing things have been going on in their lives. Eighteen months ago they moved to Karen, Kenya, a suburb of the capitol city of Nairobi. Adriana has taken a job as a guidance counselor at the Hillcrest International School while Ben was named vice president of grid operations at PowerGen Renewable Energy.

“Teenagers are always a challenge,” Adriana told me with a wide grin. “Most of our kids have been uprooted with parents who have demanding jobs. They are looking to find their way. And yet our school presents them with a wonderful opportunity to make friends with kids from all over the world. In addition, I’m the college advisor with the unique challenge of placing our students in colleges from several different countries.”

Ben has also assumed a unique set of challenges. His company has built over 200 off-grid renewable energy systems and 50 plus micro grids (small electric power systems) throughout rural East Africa with a focus on Kenya and Tanzania. “One of the things I do is visit those stations. That means traveling long distances on rutted, gravel roads. Being a white guy, I get stopped by every cop I encounter who wants a little something.

“Kenya and Tanzania are countries where less than 30 per cent of the population has electric power. When we go into a rural village, people are thrilled about the prospect of gaining access to electricity. The typical bill for a family is $10 a month. It literally changes their lives. Our systems are up 98 per cent of the time, which is a better record than the government owned utilities, and we do it all with renewable energy—solar and wind power.”

The lives of the Cornells in Kenya is not all about work. They have gone on a safari, and often spend weekends camping and hiking the exciting venues of rural Kenya. They have also made many new friends, both Kenyan and other foreigners. “The ‘expat’ community is so welcoming with people from all over the world,” Ben said with enthusiasm, his eyes dancing. “People who choose to live in Kenya are really interesting. Many of them are there to give back in some way.” As I left the Cornells’ porch, I couldn’t help but think that Ben was really speaking about the two of them.

If you are looking for some fun on the morning of Sunday, August 27, you might consider racing in the Oar and Paddle Regatta on Sengekontacket Pond. The two-mile competition is for kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, rowboats, and swimmers. In addition, there are special races for kids. Sign in is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Little Bridge on the pond with the race beginning at 10 a.m. The $35 entry fee includes free kayak rentals and post-race BBQ, metals, and T-shirts. All proceeds will be donated to Friends of Sengekontacket, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Sengekontacket Pond and its barrier beach.

Finally, the East Chop Association will hold its annual August meeting at the beach club tomorrow at 10 a.m. As the one organization that speaks for our entire community, it is important for you to attend.

Send East Chop news to herricklr@verizon.net.