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Unite to Light is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing affordable lighting to those living off the grid. Over 1.5 billion people in the world still rely on fuels such as kerosene for lighting. Not only do these sources provide inferior illumination, they are also expensive, dangerous, and harmful to the environment. Lack of suitable lighting in the home is directly linked to poverty, illiteracy, and health issues. To make lighting safe, clean, and affordable to all, the team behind Unite to Light has designed a solar-powered light that is portable, durable, and inexpensive.

The story of Unite to Light started when Dr. Osei Darkwa of Ghana visited the Institute for Energy Efficiency at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). For many years, the Institute for Energy Efficiency has conducted research on higher efficiency visible LEDs, solar cells, and batteries. Dr. Darkwa asked if the Institute could design a low-cost reading light for the myriad of people in his country who relied on kerosene lamps for reading. Though solar-powered flashlights existed, he was interested in reading lights due to Ghana’s education problems.

The Institute for Energy Efficiency teamed up with the Engineers Without Borders – UCSB Lighting Group and three local engineers to grant Dr. Darkwa’s request. The first samples that were sent to Ghana were received well, and Unite to Light was founded by the Institute for Energy Efficiency’s director John Bowers and lawyer Claude Dorais to continue improving the product and get it into the hands of more people.

To date, Unite to Light has distributed 50,000 solar-powered reading lights to 64 countries on 4 continents. Partners include Rotary International, Direct Relief International, other non-profits, relief organizations, private businesses, and individuals. Unite to Light is currently engaging with other organizations to bring solar-based lighting and e-readers to the developing world.