* Guest post by Bill Meeker
OK, resist the temptation for an eyeroll! To be fair, this is a somewhat overused phrase. However, after reading Michele Obama’s recent book entitled “Becoming” I have been thinking more about life’s journeys and realized our lives are filled with many journeys. I think that “becoming” is another way of describing what happens to us as we take the journeys that life presents to us and most importantly what we chose to do with them!
A new journey started for me last June. I found out about a not for profit that I had never heard about. Light Up The World (LUTW) is based in Calgary and its mission is to eliminate energy poverty. It was established in 2001 and this small organization began delivering solar based, battery powered LED lighting systems to remote off grid villages in Nepal. Since that time LUTW has been active in over 50 countries, has served over 1.7 million people and installed almost 37,000 lights.
So how and why did I get involved. The short answer is that I responded to a call for new Board Committee members – I read their website, talked to their Executive Director and decided to put my name in. I was pleased when the then current Chair of the Board called to discuss whether I would be interested in joining the Board.
The long answer is related to my broader journey. Right out of business school in 1981, I joined Ontario Hydro. I thought it would be a short gig – maybe five years (that was short then). I went on to stay for 33 years and in the process enjoyed a diverse range of jobs and experiences. Early on, I joined what became Ontario Hydro International (I know no one has ever heard of it). I had the privilege of working in international markets across many different products and services that Ontario Hydro had developed.
Working for OHI, I traveled quite extensively in Europe and Latin America. It took me to places where I saw huge gaps in wealth. It also gave me first-hand knowledge and experience working in Peru, Chile, and Argentina. These travels, combined with personal trips to Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Honduras exposed me to the huge gap in wealth and lack of social safety net particularly in Latin America. My career with Ontario Hydro and Hydro One showed me the importance of electricity – I also learned about renewable energy.
Added onto my experience with OHI was another journey that changed the lives of myself and my family. Based on my experience in Latin America and the little bit of Spanish I had learned, the minister of our church asked my wife Jenn and I to take a mission trip to Honduras. The short version of that journey is that we went on to take three teams to Honduras with our kids and have been involved in the charity (www.elhogar.org) since 2007, having made trips every year except 2020 (you know why!).
All these journeys and experiences went into my decision to stick my hand up to get involved in LUTW. Just recently I accepted the role of Board Co-Chair. This has been an amazing journey for me and given me another chance to engage in what I believe is a very worthy cause. We all have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. There are so many options to consider – local, national, and international. The key thing is to get engaged with a cause that speaks to you.
So, I hope I have you wondering a little about what LUTW is doing and possibly how you might help. The Pandemic has impacted our work tremendously. Our historic mode of operations and financing has centred around volunteer-based trips with corporate and academic partners. With Peru in lockdown, we have cancelled all our trips for 2020 and may in fact not be able to start trips again until the beginning of 2022. So, we are shifting our focus to work that we can do in the country without volunteers. We have always done a certain amount of non-volunteer trips, so we will look to develop more of those. We are also expanding two new ventures – Social Enterprise product sales and Training. One of the amazing things during the Pandemic is that our sale of Social Enterprise products has grown significantly and helped to cover a significant part of our operating costs in Peru. These products include lights and small appliances for residences. We are working on virtual training modules that we can use to help improve the technical understanding throughout Peru and possibly other countries in Latin America. We will charge a fee for the more advanced versions of these courses to help recover our cost to develop them and contribute to our ability to do more projects. Despite these new initiatives, we face serious financial challenges.
OK, so here is the pitch! LUTW has partnered with another Not for Profit called Makers4Good. They have developed a wonderful high-quality product called the Helio Light. Ideal for camping and other adventures, the light recharges using solar energy and can be used to charge various devices, send emergency SOS flashes, and has a high intensity flashlight and reading light. All in a lightweight, impact resistant package! Helio Lights make a wonderful holiday gift for your adventurous family members and make great safety rewards for companies. The sale of these lights provides 100% funding for LUTW as Makers4Good has donated the products to us.
Please consider visiting our website at http://lutw.org/helio-solar-lanterns-2/ to order your light now. Or if you live anywhere near Toronto, please send me an e-mail at wemeeker1@ gmail.com and I will arrange to have lights shipped here to save on shipping costs and personally arrange to get your light to you. We are selling these products for $70 and along with the product you will also receive a $30 tax receipt!
For those still reading, thanks for sharing a couple of my personal journeys and I hope that you will consider supporting LUTW! If you have any questions about LUTW or Helio Lights, please feel free to send me a note at [email protected].