Haiti has long been plagued by electrification issues, with more than 70 percent of the population not having access to reliable electricity on a daily basis.
A new solar light kit may help solve the problem.
Called Klere Ayiti — or Light Up Haiti — the project is the result of a two-year effort among the Haitian money transfer company Sogexpress, Arc Finance, which provides energy to poor people around the world, and Western Union. The Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have also supported the effort.
Introduced Thursday morning at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, Klere Ayiti is a service where Haitian relatives can purchase solar light kits for their families back home. Each solar light kit includes either two or three LED lights, the charging solar panel, and several charging sockets, where cell phones can be charged as well.
The lights can be used as strong flashlights or hung from the ceiling. Charging occurs during the day from solar power, for about eight to 10 hours for a maximum recharge. The kits cost $140 and $180 respectively.
The kits can be ordered on the Klere Ayiti website, paid for at any Western Union location, and received by Haitian relatives within five business days at a Sogexpress location.
While the kits may appear expensive at first, the Haitian diaspora spends between “$60-200 on remittances to family members per month,” said senior energy specialist Greg Watson of IDB. Up to a third of that money usually goes toward energy payments.
“You are investing in something tangible that you know they can use. You can picture it in their home, and you know how they will benefit from it,” he said.
The project organizers chose the models from more than 25 different solar kits they studied over a two-year period.
“We want to assure the highest quality, durability, and performance for the families,” said Yara Akkari, a representative from Arc Finance. “The kits come with a two-year warranty as well to ensure satisfaction.”
Daniel Fils-Aime has most of his family still living in Haiti. He intends to buy a kit. “Yes, I liked the product quite a lot. These types of products are a necessity. Price is not an issue when it comes to necessities like energy. People will save money in the long run.”
Another interested bystander: James Jones, formerly of the Miami Heat and now a small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jones, who grew up in Miami, looks for ways to do outreach in his hometown and through his foundation, the James Jones Legacy Foundation. He was intrigued by the Klere Ayiti initiative.
“It’s a phenomenal product. You think about the applications…the ability for families to have light at night for dinners, for homework…you allow them to use all parts of the day to enhance their family’s ability to succeed,’’ he said. “And that’s critical because we take it for granted when it’s a basic, staple utility. But when it’s something like this, you know someone’s world opens up just from a simple light.”
How to order
All Klere Ayiti products can be ordered online at klereayiti.com. For the first 30 customers who order a kit, Western Union will add a free solar lamp to the order.