A quarter of humanity is living without electricity. Many of these 1.3 billion people rely on kerosene and other dangerous substances to provide fuel so they can light their homes and cook their food. In rural Asia and Africa in particular, kerosene lamps are used where electricity is either not available or too expensive for widespread use, reports the BBC.
Kerosene inhalation has devastating consequences. The World Bank estimates that breathing kerosene fumes is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. In fact, the United Nations reports that more people die each year from kerosene-related respiratory illnesses than from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined—with more than half of these deaths under age 5.
In response to this widespread problem, New Vision Renewable Energy has created portable solar lights to replace lethal kerosene lamps. A nonprofit Christian organization based in Philippi, WV, New Vision was formed in 2009 to create and deploy clean energy solutions to empower underprivileged communities.
New Vision believes that everyone has the right to enjoy light, power, and clean water. “We are committed to the research, development and supply of affordable and effective renewable energy solutions and products,” the organization states.
Combining a 10-watt solar panel, a 12-volt lithium polymer battery and a reflective LED light, New Vision created a portable solar light strong enough to illuminate an entire room. Not only is this lighting option kerosene free, it is also available in the form of a kit, so that children can learn how to construct their own solar light.
“We have a saying: Give a family money for their power bill, you teach them to be dependent. Provide the training and resources to build and install their own renewable energy systems and you open a New Vision of possibilities for a lifetime,” says Pamela O’Brien, director of communications and business development. “This is what we’re all about, giving people hope and a hand up to under-resourced families so that they can realize that renewable energy solutions are attainable and affordable.”
In July of 2013, New Vision distributed solar lights to 200 families in Machakos, Kenya. The lights were sponsored by churches, individuals and organizations. Another 100 solar lights were given to St. Christine’s School in the Kibera Slum just outside Machakos.
Many of the lights were assembled by youth groups working with New Vision under a U.S. Department of Justice national youth mentoring grant, according to The Dominion Post. Children in West Virginia and throughout the nation can become involved in a youth mentoring program called Global I.M.P.A.C.T., which aims to inspire young people to develop solutions for challenges while making a positive impact on the environment.
Projects like the portable solar lights do just this.
“It shows these kids they’re capable of helping people all over the world,” said Jarod Hulme, I.M.P.A.C.T. Leader. “I don’t think before the summer [program] they knew they could help people thousands of miles away.”