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Solar lights, month 3

Posted on Posted in Blog, Year Of Charity
  • Every month I donate part my salary to charity.
  • This month I help buying cleaner cookstoves.

2016 is my year of charity. I’ll donate part of my income for good causes, every month another one. Then I’ll blog about the impact. Here is what I support in March.

Off the grid

Do you know what it means to live without electricity? You probably grew up with a power socket near you. But you might know this from a camping trip or a weekend in remote place yourself: Once the sun is gone you have to rely on other means of lighting.
For over 600 million people in Africa this is the daily life (this is over 90% of Africa’s rural population). Worldwide it’s more than 1.5 billion people that need to conduct business or perform tasks after dark. Once the sun is gone they turn on lamps. Their only choice as a source of light is often kerosene, paraffin or candles.
Young boy using a tin kerosine lantern to study, Migori, Kenya
Young boy using a tin kerosine lantern to study, Migori, Kenya
Credit: Corrie Wingate Photography/SolarAid

Effects on your body

These inefficient lights emit toxic particles and this way millions of people are exposed to a high concentration of these particles. A kerosene lamp for example is estimated to be similar to inhaling the smoke from 298 cigarettes full of black carbon annually. One lamp is estimated to emit 200 Kg of carbon per year. Proximity and regular use leads to health effects as respiratory disease.
Besides damaging health they don’t even do a good job – they often don’t emit enough light to perform simple tasks after dark. You might need more than one. Lamps fuelled by kerosene or paraffin or a candle means you are still straining your eyes when you study.

High price

And the families have to pay a high price for this little light they get: Between 10 and 15% of a family’s income is spent on fuel such as kerosene and candles or batteries for torches.

All you need is sunlight

All this can be fixed with solar light: they are safer, cleaner and affordable. Just one lamp can transform the life of an entire family. Solar lights won’t be able to fix all energy problems but it will ensure that poor off-grid-communities can develop and prosper.
Light in the palm of your hands - Lwimba, Zambia
Light in the palm of your hands – Lwimba, Zambia
Photo by Steve Woodward

Safe and Clean

Families replacing kerosene and paraffin lamps with solar lights show signs of improvement in respiratory health. There are no more fumes irritating throat, no more soot inhaled into your chest. No smoke means no irritated eyes anymore and no CO2 released into the environment. No more risk of fires or burns because solar lights don’t run hot.

Less Money, more light

All the money you save on kerosene, paraffin or candles can now be spend on other things. Per year this can mean around $70 per family and this can now be spent on better food or other necessities. The money you save in less than 3 months is enough to buy a solar light that can last 5 years.
And these lights are more efficient. They are always bright and allow you to read without straining your eyes for cooking or working after sunset.
Michael Phiri and his brother completing their homework under the light of the SunKing Pro
Michael Phiri and his brother completing their homework under the light of the SunKing Pro.
Photo by Steve Woodward

Bright light for brighter kids

Light after sunset means kids can study and do their homework. Since the lights are safe to use children can use them by themselves without supervision.

“The kerosene lamp used to hurt my children’s eyes, but nowadays, they study long hours with the solar light.” Joseph Karui – Head Teacher, Bomet County

“Some learners are now selected to good schools within the district, a thing that has created history at our school” Patrick Nyerenda – Head Teacher, Malawi

“All my pupils can now finish their homework at home and their performance has also improved.” Josephine Kimutai – Teacher at Roret Primary Kericho, Kenya

Who is helping on the ground?

SolarAid is an international charity that targets poverty and saving the environment. They are providing access to solar lights in some of the most remote regions of the world and are creating a sustainable market for solar lights in Africa.
SolarAid wholly owns an African social enterprise, SunnyMoney, the largest seller of solar lights in Africa. They sell lamps at a sponsored price to build a sustainable market. With the demand for solar lights increasing, more companies enter the market creating more access to light than before. This drives local awareness, increases the reach and creates jobs within the SunnyMoney organisation and other companies.

SolarAid can deliver results

  • Impact since SolarAid started
  • 10 million people with access to safe, clean solar light.
  • Millions of families with improved health.
  • $345 million saved by families *
  • 2 billion extra study hours for children *
  • 880,000 tonnes of CO₂ averted *

* In total over the lifetime of the solar light.

The charity explains how they calculated their impact but also provide a nifty little calculator to see what impact you can make by a donation:

SolarAid social impact calculator
SolarAid social impact calculator – here you can calculate the impact of your donation.

Why I chose SolarAid

I find this example fascinating because of the impact technology can have. For us it would not be much more than a little gadget: a little lamp that can be recharged just by exposing it to sunlight, over and over again. Cute. Nice idea.
But in the right hands it means a healthier life and saving money. It can even change the life by providing children light for studying after sunset.

I also like the way they make your contribution visible. Here is my donation in context of where my contribution goes and the impact. If you want you can join the fun, follow the link and bring some light into poor families homes:

Speed of light network impact
Speed of light by SolarAid – see where your donation goes and share with others.