Guest post by Jen Butte-Dahl, Nokero
Jennifer Butte-Dahl is the head of alliances and the Bright Future Fund at Nokero International Ltd. Nokero (short for No Kerosene) develops affordable and environmentally friendly technologies that eliminate the need for harmful and polluting fuels used for light around the world, and then partners with local organizations to reach communities who need light most.
We can learn a lot from kids. In a phrase, they keep it simple. Kids don’t talk about building innovative partnerships, or crafting collaborative alliances. Kids find other kids who have similar interests, or have something they want or need, and they make friends. They play together, they learn from one another and they bring their diversity of talents together to shape the lives they live. My niece, Kaitlyn, is seven and a budding artist. She loves drawing little girl stick figures with skirts, long hair and high heels. Her best friend Sophie has a penchant for flowers and houses. They work together and fill countless sheets of construction paper with their vivid imaginations, creating colorful works of art together that are better than anything they could ever create on their own. And decorating many a fridge!
At Nokero, we are constantly working to hold ourselves to the lessons we learn from children. “Keep it simple” is one of our core values, and it touches everything we do, from designing new products to making new friends.
Today, we’re unveiling the Nokero Ed, a small solar light with a big mission: to change the lives of kids around the world who live without electricity. At the same time, we’re launching a friendship with ChildFund International, an organization with the drive and the know-how to help us get these little lights into the hands of children around the globe who need them. Our friendship is simple: we want the same things, and we each have something to bring to the relationship.
It all began with an innovation. Steve Katsaros, Nokero’s founder and chief inventor, was visiting Kenya late last summer, and was inspired by the children he met. They were enthusiastic to learn, eager for knowledge and excited by everything new. In each village, he handed out a few solar lights and asked for their feedback. But it wasn’t necessarily their words that made the most impact. It was the groups of kids crowding around each light to read and do their homework after dark. Sometimes two or three at once, but more often five or six, or ten, or more. It was uplifting and heartbreaking all at once. There was never enough light to go around.
When considered next to the daily, and oftentimes enervating cost of kerosene fuel, solar light is clearly the economical choice. Yet even a modest upfront cost holds many families back from making the switch from toxic kerosene lamps to clean, safe and healthy solar light. So Steve set out on a mission: design for extreme affordability. Keep it simple. Remove the bells and whistles. Make a solar light that could help kids learn and would be economical enough for more families to afford. Once we had the prototype in hand, we knew we had a powerful difference-maker for children around the world. But we needed to reach them.
And this is where ChildFund comes into the story. As serendipity would have it, we saw a ChildFund billboard while standing at a bus stop in Washington, D.C. The public service ad simply stated their mission: ChildFund is dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable children worldwide—and that is exactly what we were looking for. It really is the perfect friendship. We bring the technology; they help deploy it to the communities who need it most. ChildFund programs serve more than 13.5 million children in 31 countries around the world. The majority of those children either live in unelectrified communities, or their families cannot afford electrical power.
So now we’re working together to bring sustainable and nontoxic solar light to the millions of children around the world living without access to electricity. Together, we are illuminating lives. Funds raised through the Global Light to Learn Challenge will support ChildFund in bringing clean, healthy Nokero solar lights to schools in unelectrified communities. Students will be able to study and read after dark, by checking out a light each night (just as they would a library book). The lights will also be used in classrooms to teach students about science, technology, renewable energy and the power of the sun.
An innovative partnership? Definitely. A collaborative alliance? Sure. But at its core, simply a great friendship between two organizations that can now achieve more together than they ever could alone. Together, we are coloring the world brighter, and drawing little suns and smiley faces all over the place.