By Ritu Bhargava
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the most disaster prone in the Caribbean. This is due to geographic factors as well as endemic violence, corruption, and political instability contributing to the country’s poor infrastructure (Jones, 2016). After the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, over 1.3 million Haitians were resettled in makeshift tent camps, worsening crime, poverty, and sexual violence against women and children (Kuehnast, 2010). Overcrowding, lack of privacy, and weakened family and community structures are constant problems in the Haitian tent camps. These challenges are also easily exacerbated among the 1.6 billion people worldwide lacking access to electricity (LuminAID, 2016).
In an attempt to create a disaster relief product for Haitians after the shocking 2010 earthquake, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta created their first LuminAID light. These lights are solar powered, inflatable, and waterproof with the ability to last up to 30 hours. The floatable lanterns, weighing a mere 3 ounces, have a low- and high-light setting and can be hung up or strung together. Further, whereas aid agencies normally ship 8 lights in a box, LuminAID lights fit an astounding 50 to a box due to their compressible nature (LuminAID, 2016).
After Hurricane Isaac struck Haiti in 2012, LuminAID established the Give Light, Get Light program. This program aims to “make light more accessible and sustainable for all by purchasing a light for yourself and sponsoring one with a Give Light, Get Light package” (LuminAID, 2016). Through this program LuminAID has distributed over 25,000 lights in over 60 countries in a short four-year period.
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With Hurricane Matthew recently devastating Haiti, these lights prove continually crucial in times of need. Partnering with on-the-ground organizations Can-Do.org and Convoy of Hope, women and children (the most vulnerable populations in Haiti) can cook, wash, and dress without dangerous candle light (LuminAID, 2016). Illumination also reduces their risk of being victims to sexual violence and/or crime. As the destruction unfolded, for a week in early October the company ran a campaign called “Double Your Impact,” in which they matched all Give Light, Get Light sponsored lanterns for Hurricane Matthew relief; they are still accepting sponsorships.
LuminAID has provided light after major earthquakes in the last five years, from the 2011 Japan earthquake to the 2015 Nepal earthquake. The company has reduced costs for families with children fighting AIDS and distributed lights to thousands of Syrian refugees in in temporary shelters (LuminAID, 2016). These lights play a significant role in the lives of their owners: “children can study after dark, improving their long-term educational prospects; communities reduce harmful fumes, high costs, and fire risk associated with kerosene lamps; families left vulnerable by natural disasters report increased feelings of safety and security; and medical teams are able to shine a light on much-needed care to remote areas” (LuminAID, 2016).
Yet, social impact has not limited the vision of the founders. These lights are sold in recreational stores to campers, hikers, boaters, and backpackers as well as online. The genius of LuminAID is appreciated by all peoples around the world. Despite its short history, LuminAID has made a big impact. The company has been featured in Outside Magazine and Forbes as well as on TV by CBS, CNN, and Shark Tank. LuminAID has also won prizes and awards from the Chicago Booth’s Social New Venture Challenge (2012), the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago (2013), the Women in the World Summit (2014), Chase Mission Main Street Grant (2015), and the Pitch for Good competition (2016) (LuminAID, 2016).
To shop and learn more, visit their website.