What would it be like to live without lights?
IKEA asked me to be part of a campaign to raise awareness for their Brighter Lives initiative, where they supply refugee camps in Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, and Bangladesh with solar street lamps and solar lanterns to help refugees achieve a little bit of normalcy and to greatly improve safety.
They sent us a solar lantern so we could try it out! It’s kinda nifty. You leave it out in the sun all day, and then at night it provides about 6-8 hours of light. Now, here in Canada we don’t get a whole lot of sun this time of year, so it doesn’t charge that well. But one thing those refugee camps have in abundance is sunlight during the day!
We tried first to go without lights, and then we use the solar lantern. And here’s what a difference it makes!
1. It’s scary with no lights
Seriously. We’ve been painting our house for the last few weeks, so we have stuff everywhere. Books line the floor because we haven’t put the bookcases back up yet. And walking around when you’re not sure what’s there isn’t fun.
Try going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or even brushing your teeth, with absolutely no light. It’s not easy.
And add to the scary factor is the sense of physical danger in the camps. Rape is a huge problem, and as the mother of teenage girls, that is just hard to even imagine. What would you do if you were 16 and you had to go use the latrine, but it was pitch black? Do you hold it all night and not really sleep, or do you brave the danger? Not a nice choice to make.
Even one solar lantern that you can carry with you helps so much. You can see the books on the floor (or the snakes, or the obstacles, or whatever else there is!) You can see where your toothbrush and toothpaste are.
And in a camp, if you’ve got a light, you’re far less likely to be attacked because people can see what’s going on.
2. It’s boring with no lights
It’s easy to romanticize it–wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t addicted to technology and could get back to basics? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have time to talk as a family, instead of just watching screens all night?
There certainly is something to that. But at the same time, there’s a reason light became so popular. It’s more fun to talk to people and socialize when you can see them!
When my mom visited a refugee camp in Kenya, she came home saying that one thing that struck her was how bored everybody was. There just wasn’t a whole lot to do. These people were used to having regular lives, with things to fill their days with. And now there was very little. Add to that no lights at night, and the day can seem endless. People just tend to start sleeping twelve or thirteen hours a day, and getting really depressed.
In countries near the equator the sun sets at 6:30 every night and rises at 6:30 every morning, all year long. It’s not like North America when summer nights are so short, and summer days are so long. The sun is gone by 6:30, year round. That’s a lot of hours to fill in the pitch dark.
When we were in the dark all we could do was talk. It was actually nice. But we were doing it for one night, not for endless nights, stretched before you. There’s so much human potential in these camps–people who want to teach, and help kids with homework, and try to maintain a semblance of normal life. Give them lights, and they can start to build a vibrant community while they’re waiting for their lives to move forward.
Imagine the lost productivity in these camps! They’ll always be difficult places to live, but at least with light you can maintain a semblance of normal life. Here’s my daughter at the table, finding that the solar lamp, in complete darkness, really is enough to read by and do your homework by:
Light makes a difference. I appreciate what IKEA is doing for refugees, and I’d ask you to help, too! From now until
March 29, the global IKEA store initiative will donate one euro ($1.37)* to the UN refugee agency UNHCR for every IKEA LEDARE – LED light bulb sold. So if you’re planning on doing some shopping at Ikea, why not do it now? And buy some light bulbs while you’re at it!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.