p - IKEA's Helping Refugees--with their Brighter Lives for Refugees Program

Lately I’ve been busy. And we’ve had some major ups (things to celebrate!) and some major downs (health problems) in my extended family. And when that happens we often get really self-absorbed. We think about how hard our own lives are.

So when Ikea contacted me and asked if I’d write about their new initiative to help provide solar lights in refugee camps, I jumped at the chance. Too often we forget how good we’ve got it.

Here’s what they’re trying to do: Ikea is going into four refugee camps in Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, and Bangladesh, and providing solar street lamps and solar lanterns to people to help them achieve a little bit of normalcy and to greatly improve safety.
Brighter Lights for Refugees

On February 18, my daughters and I are going to go without lights of any kind (not even cell phones!) at night. On February 19, we’re going to use a solar-powered LED lantern. And then I’ll report back to you and tell you what a difference a light makes!

Imagine what a difference a light makes in a refugee camp. If you were a woman, in a camp, and you had to go to the washroom at night, you’re at really heightened danger of rape. It’s horrifying. I heard the stories when I was in Kenya; I know they’re being multiplied in these camps.

  • Solar street lights can improve safety in refugee camps by reducing the risk of crime, sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Solar lanterns help girls and boys in refugee camps study after dark, improving results in school.
  • Solar street lights help improve life in a refugee camp, enabling more community gatherings and social activities.
  • Solar lanterns allow refugees to continue important income-generating activities such as weaving or sewing during the dark hours.
  • Solar lanterns enable refugees to run their small shops and kiosks into the evening, increasing prospects of generating a sustainable income.

Ethiopia 2013, Dollo Ado, RefugeesToo often we dismiss problems on the other side of the world as having nothing to do with us. After all, when you picture a refugee camp, what do you think of?

Likely row upon row of poor people, stretching out as far as the eye can see. It seems so hopeless. But it also seems so far-removed.

Yet God said in Isaiah 58:10:

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

When people are hurting, it matters to God, and it should matter to us, too. And here’s a really tangible way that we can help–these moms who are trying to raise kids in desperate situations. These teenage girls who are heading families and don’t know what they’re going to do. These people who are just desperate.
Brighter Lights for Refugees

And let’s not forget that many of these people are our Christian brothers and sisters, especially in the Jordan camp, where so many are fleeing from the violence in Syria. The Syrian conflict is close to my heart right now because it’s the most dangerous place to be as a Christian. (North Korea is more dangerous percentage wise, but Syria had the most Christians dying last year.) And so many have fled to refugee camps to get away from the violence. It’s so heartbreaking.

Ikea’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign runs February 3 – March 29, 2014. The global IKEA store initiative includes a donation of 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!

And in two weeks my daughters and I will go without lights–and I’ll tell you how grateful we should be for them afterwards!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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