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Since appearing on the popular show Shark Tank, the LuminAID solar lantern has become well-known for its durability and variety of uses. The company designed its first lamps after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. They are designed to be an easy way to access light in areas without electricity and are marketed to individuals in countries lacking infrastructure or refugees who are living in transit.

The organization has now invented a new version of its lantern: the PackLite Max Phone Charger. The lantern is like the original, but also includes a battery and USB port that can charge mobile devices. The battery can be charged by the solar panel through 12 to 14 continuous hours of direct sun exposure. The fully-charged lantern can then give 50 hours of light and fully recharge a smartphone.

The new lanterns target refugees. LuminAID noticed the need for phone charging capabilities while distributing its original lantern in refugee camps. Refugees use their mobile devices to contact family members and get help in emergency situations. One nonprofit partner, SCM Medical Missions, already plans to ship aid supplies to Syrian refugees in Jordan, having previously distributed the first LuminAID model to refugees living in Greece.

The LuminAID solar lantern is part of the organization’s “Give Light, Get Light” program, which prioritizes giving lanterns to people living in areas lacking traditional sources of light. The lanterns are inflatable, lightweight and waterproof, making them essential for individuals living in especially unforgiving situations.

LuminAID also sells to consumers in retail stores and through its website, but emphasizes humanitarian efforts. It partners with numerous nonprofit organizations and NGOs throughout the world to distribute the lanterns. One consistent customer is ShelterBox USA, which provides disaster relief to communities in unexpected danger. The organization obtains donated lanterns from LuminAID or buys them at a lower price.

Backers of the LuminAID solar lantern’s online Kickstarter campaign can receive the LuminAID solar lantern and a charging cable for $30. Backers can also pledge more to receive a lantern and send one to a Syrian refugee. The company also has a goal to send 500 lights to refugee camps in Jordan.

The campaign already surpassed its fundraising goal, and the new solar lantern is expected to be an extremely helpful product for refugees from Syria and other war-stricken countries who need constant access to their mobile devices. Refugees rely on mobile phones as an essential support system to contact their families and others who have been through similar situations. LuminAID’s new solar lantern with phone charging capabilities will help refugees remain connected throughout their journeys.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: LuminAID

RUDI_increases_income_of_rural_women

The Rural Distribution Network India (RUDI) has introduced a mobile phone application to quadruple the incomes of rural Indian women, according to an article by the Guardian on June 10.

RUDI is a large rural cooperative founded by India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) whose mission is to empower Indian women.  The RUDI network is designed to gather produce from a collaboration of India’s poor farmers and allow them to obtain higher prices on wholesale markets.  Once the produce is sourced from these farmers, rural saleswomen travel throughout villages to sell the goods.  This simple business model has rapidly expanded to include around 2,000 businesswomen in Gujarat, India. However, the success has not been without its drawbacks.

Originally the women involved in the project were sent out into the villages to find sales and then had to travel long distances back to the RUDI centers in order to place these orders.  The majority of the saleswomen’s time was spent traveling to and from the RUDI centers.

SEWA collaborated with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Vodafone India to create a mobile phone application that allows these saleswomen to place orders through text messages on the low tech mobile phones that they were already using.  This saves these women the time they used to spend placing orders and allows them to make more sales, which has drastically increased their profits.  One saleswoman saw her income increase from 250 rupees to 5,000 rupees a day.

Empowering these women in such a way can lift whole communities out of poverty.  Women, unlike men, are likely to invest about 90 percent of their income back into their own communities, thereby contributing to economic growth within the area.  According to the Global Poverty Project, women also make up nearly 70 percent of the world’s 1 billion poorest people, and produce half of the world’s food.  As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan put it:  “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”

– Martin Drake
Source: The Guardian, Global Poverty Project
Photo: Global Giving