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Guiding Light

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unite to Light, the nonprofit founded by UCSB’s John Bowers, is providing thousands of solar lights to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Unite to Light, a nonprofit founded by John Bowers, a professor of engineering at UCSB and director of the campus’s Institute for Energy Efficiency, today will ship 9,000 solar lights to Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees. In distributing the lamps, the tandem effort with RTM International, a Bangladesh-based NGO, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will prioritize midwives, pregnant women and new mothers.

“Unite to Light is very fortunate to work with our partner organizations to send lights to those who need them the most,” said Bowers, who holds the Fred Kavli Chair in Nanotechnology — and who also created the solar-powered LED devices. “They have the connections on the ground to ensure that the lights reach those who really need them.”

By the close of 2017, Unite to Light in total will have shipped 21,000 solar lamps this year. The organization since its founding in 2011 has distributed over 90,000 lights to 65 countries, including Ghana, South Africa, Haiti and Peru.

“What I took for granted before I worked at Unite to Light was the extent to which a person’s life stops when the sun goes down, if they don’t have access to light,” Birney added. “This is especially true for vulnerable populations: women, children, elderly. When the sun goes down, their day ends. A simple solar light changes all that. They now have hours of extra time to do homework, fetch water, visit with family or make dinner.” 

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By Shelly Leachman, The Current
December 20, 2017