America Green International is mounting a local campaign to deliver 1,000 solar light bulbs to Haitian refugees.
The effort began after a trip to Haiti last January to explore the benefits of introducing green technologies there, says Program Coordinator Leah Quintal. Her and other aid workers gave a man who operates a food stand a pair of small solar lights.
“Then he pointed at all of the nearby tents and said ‘this is wonderful, when are you bringing them back for everyone here?’” explains Quintal. “That spurred the whole conversation around this program. … Even one light bulb can be so transformative. It changes that person’s life. When you get a solar light, it’s renewable energy, so you cut the cost of kerosene, a dramatic cost, so you can spend the money to improve your life in other ways.”
Quintal also says the lights could play an important role in preventing rapes and other crimes that plague the sprawling camps that sprung up after a devastating earthquake struck the country in 2010.
“It’s horrible: Having light at night would help their security. It would seriously curb the amount of rape that’s occurring in the tent cities,” she maintains.
In a trial run, the program delivered 250 solar lights to Haitians in need. And Quintal’s been a familiar face at local festivals this summer, operating out of booths to sell more of the lights and raise money for the program (they cost $20 a piece). The lights can also be purchased for use here at home, where they’re becoming increasingly popular among hikers and campers. All the proceeds go to fund the Haitian effort.
Quintal reports that American Green needs about 800 more lights to meet their goal of 1,000, which they’re hoping to distribute to refugees in January on the two-year anniversary of the quake. She’ll be selling them from a booth at RiverFest at French Broad River Park this Saturday, Aug. 13.
Meanwhile, longtime Asheville filmmaker Kurt Mann (and owner of American Green) documented the trial run in Haiti (see below for his video). Eventually, he’s hoping to make a full-length documentary on the effort.
Jake Frankel for Mountain Express