Charles Bronfman Prize Awarded to Leader of Solar Cooker Project

The Charles Bronfman Prize has announced Rachel Andres, leader of the team that launched the Solar Cooker Project, as the winner of this year's prize.

The $100,000 prize celebrates the vision and talent of an individual or team under the age of fifty whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world and whose Jewish values infuse his or her humanitarian accomplishments, providing inspiration to future generations.

Andres' two-year-old project provides solar cookers to women who escaped the genocide in Darfur and fled to refugee camps, where they are vulnerable to sexual predators whenever they leave the relative safety of the camps to search for firewood in the desert. The project targets the seventeen thousand refugees — 80 percent of whom are widows and children — who live in the Iridimi refugee camp, which has recently merged into the neighboring Touloum refugee camp.

An October 2007 evaluation effort revealed an 86 percent reduction in the number of journeys away from the safety of the camp since the project was launched, significantly diminishing the safety risks for those sent to forage for wood. In addition, refugee women report that the project has improved their health and community by minimizing the time spent over the fire; helped slow deforestation and desertification in the area; built a manufacturing base within the camps; taught new skills to young girls; and developed an economic strategy enabling refugees to become income earners for their families.

"The genocide in Darfur is horrifying and people want to help but they don't know how because the problem is so enormous," said Andres. "The Solar Cooker Project gives caring individuals who would otherwise feel powerless a concrete way to help. It's a message to our generation and the ones to follow that we can make a difference."

"2008 Recipient: Rachel Andres." Charles Bronfman Prize Press Release 03/10/2008.