People need light for daily activities, but in some places in the world, access to reliable power is a problem, and hurricanes and earthquakes can make the matter worse.
Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork understand how important light is to people in need. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Sreshta and Stork, then graduate students in architecture and design at Columbia University, wanted to do something to help.
“We wanted to create something, a basic necessity and we focused in on lighting,” says Sreshta.
As a school assignment, Sreshta and Stork designed a lighting product that was lightweight, portable and wireless, something that might help improve the safety and living conditions of Haitians.
The result was the LuminAID light. An inflatable plastic, waterproof rectangle light that can be recharged with solar power.
What was only a school project for Stork and Sreshta turned into a more serious endeavor when friends and contacts began sending the lights to those in need.
“We made this in our kitchens and we built the first 50 prototypes by hand,” says Stork.
In their final year of architecture school, Sreshta and Stork filed a patent for the portable lamp, and shortly after graduating, the two traveled to India and conducted field tests on their prototype.
Stork says visiting villages without stable access to electricity was really meaningful to them.
“It help us understand the houses and the conditions that these people were living in. And what was so interesting is one of the villages that we've visited the house was made out of really thick cement, so even in the daytime, it was completely dark inside the house. So we saw real need for portable lighting,” Stork says.
In 2011, Sreshta and Stork launched their business LuminAID. They admit that when they started their business, they didn’t know much about disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
“We knew we had a product that could potentially make a difference in people’s lives after disasters like the earthquake in Haiti or even in places where people lack stable electricity,” says Sreshta. “We have been fortunate enough to work with partners like non-government organizations, humanitarian groups and disaster relief organizations which distribute our lights to people in need.”
The company also sells the LuminAID light to customers through their Give Light, Get Light program. And for each purchase by an individual, the program sends a light to someone in need.
“Seeing our lights being used by people around the world creates a mix of emotions for us,” says Stork and Sreshta. “From feeling relieved that we were able to produce and deliver our product, to being humbled by the ability to touch the lives of people we will likely never meet.”