be a light in the darkness
by sending a solar powered lantern to the children of gaza and their families
"Gaza has the dubious and unfortunate distinction of being the most closed off place on earth- most people cannot travel in and out of the territory due to hermetic border closures, and the flow of imports and exports is severely restricted: things we take for granted like ordering items off the internet or sending and receiving mail are simply not possible. This makes projects like this one particularly important, as very few organizations are given approval to bring items like solar lamps into Gaza. Gaza's electricity crisis started with Israel’s 2006 punitive bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant, which left the turbines crippled and only partially operational. This, coupled with subsequent bans on the import of factory components to rebuild- part of a crippling 10-year-long blockade, and severe restrictions on fuel and tax-collection and payment, has left the situation we see today- about four hours of power a day."
-Laila El-Haddad, author and activist
There’s a way to help Gaza’s children despite the inhumane blockade, now entering its 10th year. Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip experience between 8 and 20 hours of rolling blackouts every day because they are reliant on the energy that Israel allots them. Imagine being a child and not having light in your home after the sun goes down, being forced to resort to using dangerous kerosene lamps or candles just to do your homework. Imagine not being able to have a nightlight as a kid, to protect you from the nightmares that come in the dark, in a place that is rife with violence. That's why we decided to send solar Luci Lights to brighten the lives of Gaza's children.
MPOWERD created Luci, an inflatable solar light as an affordable clean energy product that people could use in any situation because, as they put it, life doesn’t stop after the sun goes down. These solar-powered inflatable lights can provide up to 12 hours of light on a single charge. So we decided that these Luci Lights should be in Gaza. The lights go a long way in brightening up the homes of many Gazans to help them get through their daily lives.
Great news- Our second pallet of 1,920 Solar Powered Luci Lights has arrived and is in the process of being distributed to the children! Our Executive Director, Donna Baranski-Walker, flew over to Gaza to help our three partner Palestinian NGOs distribute the first pallet of lights, and here is what she had to say while there on May 1st, 2016:
"We delivered solar-powered Luci Lights to children in Gaza last week! The first pallet of lanterns cleared the Port of Ashdod arriving in Gaza just as the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme's 6th International Conference on Mental Health and Human Rights was underway. I stayed extra days in Gaza to work with three Non-Governmental Organizations — the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, the Women's Project Center of Rafah, and the Al Basma Club for the Disabled — to help give our first pallet of 1,920 solar-powered Luci Lights to children and families. We had carefully received all permissions required to move them through the blockade.
The need was overwhelming, really. Just a week earlier, there were only four hours of electricity each day, instead of their usual 8-10 hours of black out daily. A friend's elderly auntie and uncle showed me the blacked-out view from their balcony in the Remal section of Gaza City. They explained that no one can afford the fuel to run their generator 20 hours a day.
The social workers at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme asked me to join them in visiting the families they care for, in the hardest hit neighborhoods of Gaza, to give three Luci Lights per family. We walked through the rubble to the tents in Beit Lahiya. We visited families who are still living in a city of portable homes waiting for the rebuilding of their homes, two years after the bombing that lasted 51 days. And as we were on our way out, a tall man yelled that we had no right to distribute to only a handful of families – everyone needs our light — and they really do."
Q. How did you get connected with the NGOs that will be receiving the lights? How do you know they are trustworthy?
Our first pallet of 1,920 Luci lights will be distributed by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Our next pallet will be distributed to the Women's Project Association of Rafah. Our third pallet will be distributed by the Al Basma Club for the Disabled.
Rebuilding Alliance has partnered with GCMHP since we began our work in Gaza in 2004, when Dr. Eyad El Sarraj agreed that GCMHP would help us as our fiscal partner. Our goal was to help rebuild some of the 2200 homes demolished in Rafah, starting with the family whom the late Rachel Corrie stood to protect. We finished the home for the family, and brought them on speaking tour in the U.S. to raise funds for the project (getting a visa proved they are not terrorists). Please note GCMHP is an independent organization and is independently audited.
Rebuilding Alliance has partnered with the Al Basma Club for the Disabled since 2008. Most recently, in 2014, they helped us complete a program to get emergency hygiene kits to all the families taking refuge in UNRWA schools in Rafah, Jabalya, and Khan Younis during the 51 day bombing of Gaza. Rebuilding Alliance working with volunteers at UNRWA was able to deliver the hygiene kits during the bombing because local merchant sold us the kits on credit following an appeal to them from the Rachel Corrie Foundation. ABCD helped us pay those bills and they also received a set of hygiene kits for the disabled children made homeless and their families. All merchants were vetted in accordance with US law.
After the bombing stopped, Rebuilding Alliance was asked to collect clothing for Gaza. we know how very hard it is to get things into Gaza (we couldn't build houses after the blockade was put in place) but we also knew that if anyone could get something in, it was probably us. You see, when our shipment on the MV Rachel Corrie was impounded along with all the flotilla boats, the U.S. State Department helped us successfully negotiate entry of our cargo (cement - to help build a kindergarten, exercise equipment for the ABCD deaf soccer team, and backpacks for children).In parallel with that effort, the Women's Project Association of Rafah asked RA and the Rachel Corrie Foundation to help them with two important projects: job creation and post-trauma community counseling. We vetted the organization very carefully and decided to support those projects.
When Donna was in Gaza, in addition to working closely with GCMHP, she went to visit the Women's Project Center personally to see if they would like to join the project. She left them with sample lights to see if they felt the lights would be of use. Everyone who saw them, even passersby, spoke to the immense need and was delighted by the little lights. She stayed overnight with the family whom Rachel Corrie sought to protect and experienced the daily blackout there and also at other visits with families.
Q. How can you be sure the lights won't be used to support terrorist activities?
Our NGO partners will take responsibility for vetting the children and families who receive lights.
Q. It's so difficult to get things into Gaza. How do you know these lights will make it there?
A. As mentioned above, on February 18, 2016 the Government of Israel's Customs Directorate provided Tax Exemption Approval for Customs Clearance of Donation Destined to the PA, specifically to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme in Gaza City! In case there are any roadblocks, we are in communication with Senator Feinstein (D-CA), among other members of Congress, who are standing by to help us get our shipment in.
Q. Smuggling tunnels are an issue of major concern. Is it possible these lights would be used in tunnels?
It is highly unlikely that these lights will end up in the hands of people who work in the tunnels. However, even if they did, using small solar-powered lights to illuminate an underground tunnel would be very inefficient. They would have to be collected daily and recharged outside in full sunlight for 12 hours- simply impractical. Besides, if the Israeli Army thought these lights carried even the most remote possibility of being used by smugglers, they would not have let them in. So far, Israeli Customs says there's no problem, as these are just LEDs with a cellphone battery. Please note, at 50 lumens, this is rather a tiny light. People of means will instead use battery-powered flashlights or kerosene lamps for more light.
Q. What will happen when the lights break?
A. We're working on developing a recycling program in Gaza, so that when the lights finally have to be retired (though they are a very durable product), they can be reclaimed or repurposed rather than just thrown out into the street. This is the next step in the process of creating truly sustainable positive change with this project. If you have any suggestions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.