The Dominican Republic, famous for having some of cleanest beaches in the world has an untold story: More than 9 million Dominicans live each night in a state of darkness – with roughly eight million Dominicans facing nightly blackouts and one million more living off the grid entirely. The lack of light hits people of all ages but impacts impoverished children the hardest. Many of them have to work shining shoes and washing cars after school to help their families, and do not get home until 8 or 9pm. They arrive to a dark home with no light to study with; leaving them with very little chance to break the chain of poverty.
After food, water, and shelter – light is the next basic human need … and that’s what my Dominican Co-Founder, Jacqueline Gallardo, and I are set to bring to the entire Dominican Republic. We met while I was attending UCLA Anderson, where I was looking to apply my business acumen to create a positive impact in the world. In my off time at Anderson, I read an article stating how solar lanterns are changing the daily lives of millions of people around the world. Less than a few weeks later, I was on a connector flight going to Panama when I met Jacqueline. We instantly clicked, both expressed interest in impacting the world, and I shared my findings of the solar lanterns with her.
She was shocked as the solar lanterns fit as virtually a perfect solution to the Dominican people’s deep need for light. Within a few months everything fell in place – it felt like a calling – we started our social enterprise, Esenciales J.S. SRL.
Since then, we have teamed with major foundations such as the Pujols Family Foundation (founded by MLB superstar Albert Pujols) to light up entire villages and towns across the Dominican Republic with solar lanterns. The solar lanterns give up to 12 hours of bright LED light with just a 6-8 hour charge and last up to five years. Household surveys taken one year after each village was lit showed increased student study time of 1.5 - 2.7 hours per night per child, roughly two thirds of parents reported their child’s grades improved, a significant boost in the family’s feeling of safety, and a large increase in the family’s feeling of hope. These findings showed providing access to light is a building block towards prosperity.
On May 2, 2016, we are launching a new campaign, called the Dominican Light Project, with the goal of lighting up an entire country. For every $25 raised, five Dominicans will receive a solar lantern to provide them with a safe source of light that lasts two to five years. To contribute to or see more information about the new campaign please visit http://igg.me/at/dominicanlightproject. #LetsLightUpACountry
For more stories on the Anderson community creating social impact, visit Impact@Anderson.