This year we sent over 12,000 solar lights and chargers around the world. These went to students in South Africa and Haiti, midwives in Bangladesh and victims of disasters around the world. Dozens of partners also took lights to places like the Philippines, Nepal, Kenya, Ghana, Sudan, Rwanda, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay and Mexico. Everywhere lights go they are improving health, giving opportunity and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Luke Light Got Better and Brighter
After eight years, our Luke Light got a major upgrade. The new version is waterproof, brighter and longer lasting. It has an automatic shut-off in the sun (which we’re making slightly less sensitive) and the gooseneck can now be used as a hook or handle. We kept it lightweight, packable and extremely durable.
Chargers Finding Use At Home
2019 brought home the mission of Unite to Light as friends and neighbors began to realize how important solar light and power are for all of us. This summer, a series of earthquakes rocked Southern California over the 4th of July weekend, leaving people without power and reminding all of us to stock up our emergency preparedness kits.
The summer didn’t get any better as the California utilities shut off power to millions of people, in the hopes of reducing the dangers from high winds that can spark wildfires. One incident left 1.5 million Pacific Gas & Electric customers without power for up to three days. Battery backup for phones, lights and basic necessities has become a requirement for people living in California. (Read more about preparing for a public safety power shutoff.)
An emergency of another sort is also taking place in our cities: people experiencing homelessness have increased significantly across the United States. These are our neighbors who are living on the streets without access to light and power. We started an exciting new partnership with Doctors Without Walls - Santa Barbara Street Medicine to help their volunteers and clinicians who work with people after dark in parks and allys, as well as their clients working to establish medical routines. Learn more on our dedicated page.
We’ve also found a niche with conscious corporate gift-giving. Working with a local print shop, we have been branding our Solar Chargers so that companies can give a gift that gives back. Over 700 people have received this gift from a business or their place of work. We look forward to expanding this impactful program next year.
Where Did the Lights Go?
Lights are distributed in two ways: through Unite to Light Projects and through Unite to Light Partners. Unite to Light raises funds to donate Lights and Chargers to Projects of our choosing that meet our mission and goals. In South Africa we continue to support Light Libraries in KwaZulu Natal so that students can check out a light for studying at night. We are seeing multiple years of students benefiting from these lights and graduation rates increasing 20-30% at the schools with Light Libraries.
Unite to Light Partners are individuals and organizations who buy lights from us and take them to projects that support their missions or as travel gifts (read more here about conscious travel gifting ). We are always excited to learn where a traveler took their ten lights on vacation and by the organizations like IEEE Photonics Society who sponsored hundreds of lights to Kenya . A light in a suitcase can be a powerful tool and we are honored by the people who chose to take our products.
A Team Effort
With just two people on staff, Unite to Light could not have accomplished this on our own. In addition to our partners and projects, it is the volunteers, clients and funders who enable us to do this important work. From the people who sell lights at farmers markets, to our dynamic Board of Directors and Business Advisory Council, to the people who bought one light or attended an event, we are grateful. We appreciate your support, time, energy and resources.
We thank you for helping us share the light in 2019.
We look forward to a bright 2020.