It’s Giving Tuesday in the United States, and in the aftermath of our week in Haiti, the Global Health Fellows were inspired to raise awareness on energy poverty around the world and raise funds to be able to distribute more Luci lights to families in need in rural Haiti.
The Global Health Fellows gave presentations in both Middle School and Upper School chapels this morning to share the following message and charge to the Norfolk Academy community:
Over 1.2 billion people worldwide, or 20% of the world’s population, are living without access to electricity. The majority of these people live in developing countries. The total darkness you are experiencing right now is what people in developing countries experience every night.
This is a satellite image of the world at night and offers a clear illustration of the divide between those who have light and those who don’t. It is shocking to see how much of the world experiences energy poverty. Light is incredibly powerful and offers so many opportunities for communities experiencing energy poverty. Electricity provides the opportunity for improved education, human health, communication and entertainment, comfort, protection, convenience, and productivity. When the sun goes down, peoples’ lives stop. A simple trip at night to the bathroom can result in injury and sometimes even sexual assault. With light, however, this risk decreases significantly. If you simply give light to a family, you change their lives forever.
Here is a satellite image of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico at night. Haiti is located on the same island as the Dominican Republic and is outlined in green on the screen. The only light you see is the capital city of Port au Prince. It is evident how rampant energy poverty is in Haiti. While Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it also has the most ineffective power grid. Out of Haiti’s 9.6 million people, only an estimated 25% have access to electricity.
As many of you know, the Global Health Fellows were in Haiti last week. During our time there, we conducted a needs assessment survey in a rural community in the central plateau region to learn more about the needs of the community. We found that one of the many challenges the community faces is a lack of light during the night. Specifically in rural settings that are far from major cities, access to electricity is such a rarity. For many communities, the sun is the last light seen every day. The Norfolk Academy community, however, has an opportunity to impact the energy poverty facing rural Haiti.
During our week in Haiti, we distributed solar-powered lights called Luci lanterns to community members who participated in our needs assessment survey. After we handed them out, their faces lit up and you could see their ecstatic smiles as they were so happy to finally have a reliable and durable light source. Sadly, we were not able to provide every family with one of these lanterns. These lanterns are created by Mpowered, an organization that designed the lanterns in the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, which left many people without electricity. The Luci lanterns are solar-powered, durable, waterproof, and can emit light for up to 6-12 hours. After seeing the impact these lights can have, we hope to provide more of these lanterns to the community. While we understand that Luci lights are not a longterm solution, they provide a cost-effective, innovative, and immediate benefit for rural Haiti.
In order to distribute more Luci lights in rural Haiti, we need your help. During this season of lights, you can give the gift of light. For $15, you can purchase a Luci light for a family in Haiti while honoring one of your loved ones. For each light you buy, you will receive a holiday card that you can give to a friend or family member as a gift. You can buy these cards at the bookstore or from a Global Health Fellow during break or H bell. You can charge it to your bookstore account, bring in money, or even make out a check to Norfolk Academy. This card will give one Luci lantern to a Haitian family in need. We hope you will join us in giving the gift of light this holiday season.