As J.I. explained to the Newsroom, the need he sees for his home island is fueled by a history of hurricane experience.
As a toddler, the '98 arrival of Hurricane George sent J.I.'s mother out into the storm searching for electricity so she could administer his asthma medication. At seven, he saw images of Hurricane Isabel making landfall and the fascination cemented.
From that point on, J.I. "followed every hurricane like a hawk," he says, "like a little weather man."
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina's quick and unprecedented strength made an impression, too. But twelve years later, when J.I. was far from home at college in DC, "Hurricane Maria hit, and that changed everything … Maria decimated our island."
Bringing Power to People
When an NPR mindfulness challenge inspired J.I. to consider solutions to Puerto Rico's debt crisis, he hit on modernizing his home island's energy grid as a source of financial relief. In the wake of the storm, watching scenes he recognized from Katrina play out in his own community, the idea took a turn, and Dios del Sol was born.
Dios del Sol aims to overhaul the island's energy distribution by leveraging places of worship and other buildings belonging to faith-based organizations to distribute solar. Too often, the needs of those injured during a storm can't be met without power, and the lives lost multiply throughout recovery as grid restoration stretches on. Dios del Sol will ultimately create a micro-grid of weather-proofed power to prepare the island for future storms. And they're testing their model right now – using his local church, which they hope to have "launching a fully retrofitted solar micro-grid by Earth Day this year and begin to bring along other nearby churches after."
Through Changemaker Challenge, J.I. and Giovanni received $10,000 to get their idea off the ground. It allowed them to build a small team, and "dare to dream and make those dreams come true." Read the full interview with J.I. on our T-Mobile Newsroom, and watch him share his vision with Good Morning America below!
The energy that the 2018 class of Changemakers brought to the world by sharing their stories and plans for the greater good isn't going anywhere -- T-Mobile will launch the 2019 Changemaker Challenge later this year. If you're a young Changemaker or know one, visit T-Mobile.com/Changemaker to sign up for a notification when the 2019 Challenge launches!