UChicago alums assist disaster relief in Haiti

January 26, 2010

EarthSpark International, a U.S.-based nonprofit that operates in Haiti, founded by University of Chicago college alumnus Daniel Schnitzer ’07, is raising money to send solar lamps to the country to assist in disaster relief efforts. The organization is working with a coalition of fellow Clinton Global Initiative members to coordinate the supply and distribution of solar-powered products in Port-au-Prince. These portable power options can have an immediate impact on the communities and individuals in terms of safety and well-being.

“Port-au-Prince is without light or power,” says General Wesley Clark, “EarthSpark and its partners are working to provide thousands of solar lamps and mobile phone chargers. These are a simple and efficient solution that will greatly address both the lighting needs and the security of the devastated communities across Port-au-Prince.”

Companies including SunNight Solar, SunTransfer, D.Light Design, and Barefoot Power are poised to send over 50,000 solar lamps, mobile chargers, and flashlights. The coalition has secured donor commitment for the deployment of 6,500 lamps and 800 mobile phone chargers, which are already en route to Haiti. They are partnering with Partners in Health and relief organizations to distribute these products on the ground.

EarthSpark has also raised funds to install 1.8 kilowatts of solar-powered lighting in hospitals run by Partners in Health. “Lighting is critical to our operations, but the diesel to run our generators is scarce,” says Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer. “The provision of solar-powered lighting, facilitated by EarthSpark, will allow us to focus our efforts on supplying medical services to those in need.”

EarthSpark was created to reduce energy poverty in developing countries by creating supply chains for clean energy technology. Last year EarthSpark opened a clean energy store in Haiti to sell products such as efficient stoves, solar lamps, and solar home systems, and to become a hub for clean energy knowledge resources. The organization has fielded over 450 energy poverty surveys in two regions of the country to determine the appropriate technologies and pricing for the products it sells in its store. EarthSpark’s mission is to replicate this model in other locations in the country, which will facilitate Haiti’s post-disaster recovery.

Dan was inspired to work in Haiti after receiving a response to his blog on building a wind turbine his senior year of college, which was part of his work for the Sustainability Council founded by EarthSpark colleague Katherine Michonski ‘07.

EarthSpark is also supported by professor emeritus Dr. Theodore Steck. Dr. Steck has been a long-time advisor and promoter of the organization’s efforts and is EarthSpark’s first board member.