Unite to Light distributed 25,140 Luke Lights and 3,231 Solar Chargers in 2023. This totals 28,653 units for the year. By the end of 2023, UTL’s total lights distributed over the life of the organization has grown to 229,262 lights and 80 countries. This does not count the lights paid for through projects and BOGO that have not yet been distributed (an additional 3,000 Luke Lights and 400 Chargers). Donations for these “not yet distributed” Lights and Chargers came in late in the year and others are earmarked for our Gift of Light Partner Program, which runs in the spring.
Unite to Light the Night
We hosted our second annual Unite to Light the Night (UTLTN) art festival and fundraiser around the theme of light October 20 & 21, 2022 (check out all the photos and videos here!). We had over 35 pieces of art and welcomed more than 450 guests over the two nights. This year the art was much more “light based” and interactive than the previous year. We also closely partnered with several artists to bring Unite to Light’s mission to the event including Cathedrals by Cevins McCullah (two 9’ geodesic domes) and United by Light from Rebecca Zendejas (an altar with images and representations of our brand and work). To learn more about the art, check out this and this blog post. We held an artist talk, had activities for families on the community night, and hosted two free hours for the public. Between sponsorships, tickets, art sales and donations we raised almost $90,000. Importantly, we met a lot of new friends and significantly increased our presence in the community. We have plans to hold this event again in 2024.
UTLTN raised funds for three projects - all focusing on students and youth: World Food Programme in Sierra Leone, Santa Barbara City College Office of Basic Needs, and Fight Back Santa Maria Valley, Youth and Homeless Services Program. By combining international and local projects, we hoped to expose people to the variety of needs around lack of electricity.
Our carbon offset project with the University of California is significantly delayed due to issues with the SustainCert validation process. Some of this was due to issues with the platform and SustainCert’s timing. Other issues arose from our inexperience with the process. We are on track to have the Validation completed in Q1 2024 (including distributing the first 200 subsidized lamps) and commence the project soon after.
We continued our work on Black Carbon and submitted requests for methodology updates to include Black Carbon (BC) in the methodology that credits the replacement of kerosene lamps to solar lamps to both Gold Standard and Verra registries (voluntary markets). We were denied by both registries. We also submitted comments to UNFCCC about including BC in methodologies - that is still in process. We are now talking to Tanzania about including BC in their Article 6 compliance for the Voluntary Market.
Key Focus Areas
Education: We made donations to Girl Up Uganda (200 Luke Lights) and REACH for Uganda (2000 Luke Lights) through the Gift of Light program. UTLTN helped us reach the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sierra Leone: including creating 20 Light Libraries (of 100 Lights each) and giving 200 teachers Chargers so they can power their phones and communicate with WFP when they need more food.
Global Health: It took until July 2023 for UNFPA in the Central African Republic to receive the Lights we sent them in 2022. We will look to strengthen this partnership in 2024 again.
We continued to partner with Community Health Partners Honduras. Gisela, Jennifer and Ailin visited the original communities where we distributed lights in 2022 and held focus groups. The vast majority of the Luke Lights we distributed were still working. Gisela brought home the few that were not for further study.
Local Health/Homelessness: Aiding our neighbors experiencing homelessness continues to be a primary focus for Unite to Light. In addition to the Gift of Light partner program, we also targeted distribution to local youths and students experiencing homelessness in northern and southern Santa Barbara county. We shipped 423 Chargers and 68 Lights to people experiencing homelessness.
Disaster Response: Unfortunately, Russia’s war in Ukraine continues and we partnered with Direct Relief to distribute solar Lights and Chargers to people facing darkness there. Direct Relief also partnered with us to distribute Lights and Chargers to Turkey and Syria after an earthquake in February and to Maui, Hawaii after a wildfire in August. Direct Relief also purchased Lights for their emergency response kits. In total, we distributed 1,785 Chargers and 19,644 Lights for Disaster Response.
We are grateful to the amazing community of partners, supporters, volunteers and donors who are lighting the world. Thanks to your support, tens of thousands of people have access to light and power. These tools enable people to get a better education, have access to healthcare, breath cleaner air, and connect to their families and services, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It truly is amazing the power of a simple solar light. Thank you for lighting the world.