Lifeline Energy: Solar Radios, Shining Rays of Hope

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SEATTLE — About 70 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is deprived of basic energy, which, among other things, significantly hinders communication. Lifeline Energy, founded by Kristine Pearson in 1999, has distributed more than 600 solar and wind-up Prime radios and media players called Lifeplayers. Inspired and motivated to empower vulnerable people with knowledge, this project is enabling an isolated population of more than 20 million to stay connected and informed.

Lifeline Energy also supports relief efforts during conflicts or natural catastrophes around the world by distributing its Emergency Bridge and Polaris radios with integrated lights and cellphone chargers to aid displaced populations so they remain connected and receive lifesaving information.

The majority of the nonprofit’s efforts are focused in sub-Saharan Africa where, despite the recent presence of phones, tablets and computers, radios remain the primary mode of information-sharing, especially in remote areas. The charity provides to people in remote parts living off the grid including child-headed families, women and refugees; they receive access to radio and distance learning programs such as school curriculums, women’s health education and current events. Through collaboration with local, international and government agencies, the nonprofit is involved in several areas of development. Included are health,

Through collaboration with local, international and government agencies, the nonprofit is involved in several areas of development. Included are health, farming and education through diverse communication projects ranging from large-scale education initiatives to smaller community-based women’s listening groups.

Lifeline Energy plays an influential role in uplifting people in unfavorable circumstances across multiple countries. For instance, it collaborates with Zambian nonprofit COMACO, which works with local community leaders and farming cooperatives in the Luangwa Valley. Through the program, Farm Talk, COMACO educates an audience of about 800,000 on conservation farming. This knowledge-sharing has led to almost eliminating wildlife poaching and replenishing the endangered animal populations in the region.

COMACO uses Prime radios and Lifeplayers to spread environmental awareness and aid people so they adopt sustainable means of livelihoods through improved farming techniques that do not deplete the soil. The COMACO and Lifeline Energy alliance is especially effective in elevating women resigned to poverty, illiteracy and early marriage. They are empowering women who cannot read with information about family planning, nutrition, leadership development, sustainable farming and livestock management.

Lifeline energy supported the Zambia National Food and Nutrition Commission along with U.N. agencies and other NGOs to spread nutrition awareness as part of the First 1000 Days Initiative aimed at reducing malnutrition related child deaths. Stunting caused by malnutrition is a major cause of infant death in Zambia.

The nonprofit is literally a lifeline for many including the Somali refugee women in Kenya’s Dadaab camp. In collaboration with U.N. Refugee Agency, it provides Prime radios and solar lights to keep these vulnerable women informed and safe. The programs on nutrition, hygiene, child care, peace efforts and updates from Somalia in their native language help them sustain hope while feeling less isolated. They also help refugee children catch up on lost years of education with regularly aired educational programs while solar lights allow girls to study at night and in early mornings.

Child-headed families with no money for radios or batteries in parts of sub-Saharan Africa such as Rwanda have been relying on Lifeline radios since 1999. The 1994 Rwandan genocide left about 101,000 families headed by a child under the age of 18. Radios allowed these families of kids to feel safe and connected while listening to presenters in shows such as Voice of America and BBC.

Lifeline Energy is also involved in several education initiatives across many countries including Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The Prime and Polaris radios with integrated light are empowering the next generation and safeguarding its future. Lifeline’s biggest innovation, the Lifeplayer, is the world’s first humanitarian use media player. It supports distant learning with pre-recorded audio lessons that can be replayed. It is ideal for remote areas unreachable by radio signals.

Lifeplayers provide students the power to excel by utilizing its unlimited access to education. In South Africa, Lifeplayers are being used in poorly resourced and overcrowded preschools to provide interactive instruction critical for cognitive skill development in the form of local music, songs and stories to toddlers. In Ethiopia, they are being used to teach English through the British Council’s English Language Training program.

The nonprofit’s tremendous success can be attributed, among other things, to the support of its own for-profit subsidiary. Lifeline Technologies manufactures the solar and wind-up radios, lights and media players and funds the nonprofit parent organization with its profit.

Lifeline Energy has been recognized for its immense contribution toward improving the lives of people in isolation and poverty. Pearson has been honored with the Silicon Valley’s James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award for using solar radios, lights and media players as a humanitarian tool to aid vulnerable populations. She was also named a Hero of the Environment by Time magazine. Pearson is utilizing the infinite potential of solar power to enlighten the lives of those living without basic energy.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Preeti Yadav

Preeti lives in Portland, OR. She has a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and has worked as a biomedical engineer for 6 years. Preeti recently transitioned out of this role to pursue her passion for writing and utilize her skills towards affecting positive change. Preeti's dream is to live in a bamboo cottage on a beautiful beach in Asia with her husband, pursue local humanitarian work and continue writing.

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