There seems to be no solution to the conflict in Syria in the near future. It is already almost three years ago since there was an uprising in Deraa, the beginning of the hopeful Arabic Spring that transformed into a civil war and a humanitarian catastrophe. Last January UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about Geneva II as “a mission of hope”, adding that it was “unforgivable not to seize this opportunity” to end a war that has left more than 130,000 people dead, innumerable people wounded both physically and mentally, and millions more displaced in and around Syria. The peace talks will continue, meanwhile the Syrian people suffer every day. Losses of life, light and love.
The WakaWaka Foundation sheds light on often dark and forgotten situations in the world in order to help communities and individuals on a daily base. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) distributed 26.000 WakaWaka solar chargers and lights in refugee camps in Syria last year. WakaWaka has turned out to be much desired among refugees. In response to their urgent request for more, IRC and WakaWaka launched a new campaign together: Solar For Syria.
”We want more”
“WakaWakas are among the most valued aid tools we distribute in Syria” says Bob Kitchen, Director Emergency Preparedness and Response of the IRC. The first 26.000 WakaWakas were distributed in refugee camps in northern Syria starting from summer of 2013. It turned out that, instead of selling, losing or trading them, 94% of the refugees still own their WakaWaka. 90% are using it on a daily basis. Light makes them feel saver, able to cook and move about in the evening. Children can now read or make drawings in the evening and WakaWaka prevents the use of toxic, dangerous kerosene lamps. Charging their phones greatly improves the ability to stay in touch with family and friends. In addition it saves a great deal of money, as electricity (if available) is very expensive in the refugee camps. Which leaves more money for food, and other necessities, etc.
There are always signs of hope that are important to focus on. Esseline van de Sande is the storyteller for the Solar for Syria campaign. She has lived and worked in Syria for many years and visited the Syrian refugees in Jordan both in local communities as in the refugee camps close to the Syrian border. She noticed the impact of a Waka waka light: ‘As we are sitting down drinking sweet tea we suddenly hear the sounds of shooting nearby. I notice a glowing fear in the eyes of Abu Nour, who just fled from Deraa. Sounds of war in Syria, so close by. I hand him a WakaWaka Power. It immediately spreads its light. We attach it to a water bottle. The atmosphere radiating from this sustainable light strikes me. We share stories and in the mean time Abu Nour’s mobile happily recharges. The children gather spontaneously around the lamp. It is like a school moment of concentrated drawing, reading and sharing coloring pencils. When I pass by a few days later, Abu Nour says: ‘It is great to have this lamp. There was a power cut yesterday but we had light. It also saves us $35 a month for buying electricity. Now we have always safe light for free and I can phone my family in Syria.’ Esseline was right to name the WakaWaka a modern Aladdin that shares the sun. She has written a great blog about her experiences in Syria, Jordan and Geneva that you can find here.
Most people tend to forget that the people in Syria are our neighbors. Before this war Syria was a developed country where most people own a phone. Imagine how much it can mean to a refugee to charge his phone with sunlight for free when this enables him to reach his beloved family or friends. Or as we have heard one of the refugees sharing his testimonial at our Waka Waka office: “In Syria there are constant power cuts, you need to phone your family to open the door for you, meanwhile there are snippers on the roofs everywhere so you don’t want to stay in the street too long without risking your life.”
Finally some light seems to shed on Homs as well. After a lot of unfortunate news about Homs, it seems that the Syrian government and rebels have reached an agreement on the evacuation of the people in this town today. Humanitarian aid may finally be able to reach them as well. This video shows how teachers and activists have turned houses into temporary schools in order to educate their children. We hope the volunteers there will also be reached and will receive some WakaWaka lights too.
Over 26.000 Syrian families or 150.000 Syrians are supported by a Waka Waka light. Would you like to help to increase this amount and bring light to the more than 7 million refugees in and around Syria? Spread the light and word about this campaign in your network and click here to see what you can do.