I brought suitcases full to test LittleSun in Gaza
Great news: 8,600 lights in 4 pallets are set to arrive in Gaza this Thursday! If all goes well the lights will cross from the Israeli side (Karem Shalom) to the Palestinian side (Karem Abu Salam) and be trucked to our NGO partners for distribution on Sunday to children in need in Gaza. An international TV crew might be filming this with us too.
With this sixth shipment, Rebuilding Alliance will have so far shipped a total of 35,600 solar lights through the blockade to Gaza's children! Each shipment has a long journey and this is no exception.
Everyone asks how this is possible: How can they transit the blockade? How will they reach the children in need?
- We applied for Custom's preclearance in June. As usual, Palestinian Customs awarded pre-clearance approval immediately but it rather got lost on the Israeli side. Once found, the shipment was pre-cleared by the Israeli Army on Sep. 4th, and the papers returned by Israeli Customs two weeks later.
- Our 8600 solar lights were shipped out of Hamburg, Germany a few weeks ago - see the smiling fork lift drivers in the video =). Last Friday, they arrived at the Port of Ashdod, Israel. With pre-clearance it took just three working days to get the lights through Israel customs into a warehouse near Karam Shalom where they wait for Palestinian acceptance, now on behalf of the Palestinian Authority instead of the Gaza Government. That should happen today, Wednesday, for transit tomorrow, Thursday.
Why Little Suns instead of Luci Lights?
There's a wonderful back-story about a mom whose son was so excited to receive a LittleSun, and her friendship with another mom in Gaza. She said, "He was the happiest kid in the world! And on that day the newspaper headlines reported on the electricity crisis in Gaza - I had to find a way to send them there too, and so I found Rebuilding Alliance." I look forward to telling that story in full someday soon.
We upgraded to send Little Suns, because this green and very efficient solar light needs 5 hours of sun to give 50 hours of light. Created by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, Little Sun B Corp is headquartered in Berlin, Germany. They formed Little Sun as a public benefit B Corporation to sell these solar lights as a commodity around the world, and also created the Little Sun Foundation, which brings Little Suns to children who live in off-grid areas, mostly in Africa. What I really liked is that in five years when the battery fails, one can change it instead of losing the unit - and also, the Bloomberg Foundation provided a 1:1 matching grant! This will be the first time that Little Suns are being shipped to Gaza.
The other big question: will they still need solar lights? YES, they will.
At the end of October, the electricity in Gaza returned to 10-12 hours on, each day. Neveen, our coordinator in Gaza City, called it, "Glorious and truly wonderful!" Yesterday, on our conference call Kareem, our coordinator in Rafah, was in darkness again and noted, "But there are still many hours in the night without electricity. Also, here in Gaza, we don't know if the ceasefire will hold - we can be thrown into total darkness at any time. Please, our Brighten the future of Gaza's Children program must continue."
Due to a remarkable permit, I visited Gaza three times in the past six months bringing LittleSun and Luci lights in my suitcases. Our team took me to the homes of families in great need to meet them and hear their stories - families that barely have a light bulb. Even if the power comes on, the LittleSuns will make life easier. These are Nur al Amal, lights of hope.
Thank you again for making this project possible. Please mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday Nov. 29th when GlobalGiving will be matching all donations all day starting at midnight until 11:50pm Eastern time!
P.S. Here's a short history of the 11 years of power outages in Gaza:
- Soon after Israel imposed the blockade of Gaza eleven years ago, the electricity supply in Gaza fell to 12 hours a day. As more people lost their jobs and were unable to pay their bills, electricity fell to just 3-4 hours per day. According to UNOCHA, “On 8 April, 2016 the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. This triggered electricity blackouts of 18-20 hours per day, up from 12 hours previously, further undermining the delivery of basic services.”
- According the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, in the early morning hours of 28 June 2006, following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli Air Force attacked the only electrical power plant operating in the Gaza Strip, destroying all transformers. It would take a very long time before it was repaired, only to be partially destroyed by Israel again and again during the invasions in 2008, 2009, and 2014. It took a long time for repair.
- Now, the system is restored to 10-12 hours per day because the ceasefire, negotiated by Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, is holding. The Government of Qatar is sending fuel to run the power plant and Israel's Army (specifically COGAT) is allowing it in. We hope this will help put people back to work at long last.
- Our Brighten the Future project, and the energy independence it provides, is still deeply needed.
P.P.S. I want to say that I see our shipments as a small miracle. We’re dealing with four dysfunctional governments - the only thing that matters is gentle, painstaking, constant persistence. Long ago, when Craig Corrie and I first went to talk to the State Department about Gaza, I wondered how on earth to proceed. Craig, who was a founding board member of Rebuilding Alliance, said, “Always go in with the intention of giving the official the opportunity to help” … later, another founding board member, Ghassan Abdullah, noted, “Too they need so many opportunities!”
Helping with basic needs
A way to finish homework
Little Sun: a child's only light on a dark street