This is my first blog post, so I thought I would write a little bit about myself and why I am so passionate about the work Soleil Global is doing. I was always interested in environmental issues, specifically climate change, but not necessarily energy issues until I moved to China after I graduated college. I was teaching English there for a year and had the wonderful opportunity to explore this vast and rapidly changing country during that time. My most distinct memory from my travels was not the mind-blowing and eccentric buildings featured in the World Expo in Shanghai, or the Great Wall in Beijing, or the gargantuan ice sculptures in Harbin. Rather, my most memorable experience was when I visited my friend Sunny’s home in a small village in Shandong Province (Sunny was her English name). They were farmers and did not have much money. This meant that they had no running water in the house, no sanitation facilities, and could rarely afford to use their electricity. I became violently ill exposed to these unfamiliar conditions (conditions that are a way of life for the world’s poorest). It could have been the water, lack of sanitation, or perhaps eating food that had been left overnight in the sweltering heat (they had no refrigerator) that made me sick. The village largely went dark at night except for a few scant streetlights and Sunny’s family had only one main light in their home they used sometimes at night. My friend’s family is lucky in that they actually have a connection to the electrical grid even if they cannot afford to take advantage of it very often. 1.6 billion people around the world do not have that luxury.
Most of China’s 1.3 billion people have grid access, although blackouts are a regular occurrence and something I became accustomed to, making teaching and subsequently learning for my students rather difficult. I was profoundly affected by my experience in China and particularly by my visit to Sunny’s village. When I returned home, I became interested in energy access issues. I wrote a few articles for an energy blog and worked at a foundation that implements projects in the water and energy sectors. Now, I am a fellow at Soleil Global because I am deeply passionate about energy poverty and the mission of this organization. I was able to catch a very small glimpse of what it is like to live in energy poverty; the fact that more than a billion people live in dire energy poverty and face the ramifications of this every day is unacceptable to me. This is even more intolerable when we consider that solutions are available. Luci is one such solution and why I was so excited to work at Soleil Global. This is the most compact, transportable, lightweight, and cost- effective solar powered light I have come across and truly has the power to transform people’s lives. People like my friend Sunny and her family.