Last year at the Pathway to Paris event, artist Olafur Eliasson created an interactive artwork with all 2,800 attendants. He led choreography that motioned the audience to hold up the Little Suns, resulting in a visually striking “solar-powered sunrise”.
After the event, 2,800 lamps have been allocated to be sent to Puerto Rico with the Maria Fund, to bring solar power and light to the communities affected by Hurricane Maria and those who currently still lack electricity. This year, at Pathway to Paris in San Francisco, the lamps used for the performance will be donated to communities living in high-altitude, remote areas of Nepal, who don’t have access to electricity, in collaboration with the Upaya Zen Center and Everest Awakening, founded following the 2015 earthquake, to raise hope, awareness and funds for the region.
Everest Awakening was founded following the April 2015 earthquake to bring together musicians, artists, writers, poets, activists, politicians, and scientists in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Nepal and neighbouring territories of the Himalayan region. Upaya Zen Center is a Zen Buddhist practice, service, and training center. Their vision focuses on the integration of practice and social action, bringing together wisdom and compassion. Upaya’s Nomads Clinic program, founded by Roshi Joan Halifax, abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been bringing medical care to people who have little other care available in the Himalayan region since 1980.
Little Sun’s portable solar lights were first brought to the region in 2013 by Dr. Charles McDonald, a pulmonary specialist who was on the Nomads Clinic medical expedition that year. He took 200 solar lights with him to give away and the response was amazing! Most of the villagers have respiratory problems from a lifetime of cooking, heating, and lighting by burning wood and other fuels indoors – the Little Sun lamps provide a direct solution. The solar lights also continue to greatly enhance the working conditions and capabilities of the healthcare workers in the region, year after year.
Writer Rebecca Solnit is actively involved with the Nomads Clinic and continuing fundraising and distributing Little Suns since 2014, ‘ The first time I handed out a Little Sun in the Himalayas, the recipient was an old woman with her grandson on her hip, standing on a sunny day outside her windowless yurt. She took it enthusiastically and said, through the translator, “I have lived my whole life in darkness.” So we gave her another. (…) We’ve seen the Suns used to help people travel safely at night, to cook, work, study, to do all the things those of us in the electrified world take for granted. Last year we took replacement batteries for some of the suns we’d given out earlier. They are sturdy, bright, reliable—and instantly recognizable and immediately cherished. ‘
Back in 2015, we sent 400 Little Sun solar lamps to Nepal, directly to the Upaya Zen Center’s Earthquake Relief Fund as an immediate relief response to the earthquake. Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign run by the US-non-profit mgraystudio on Indiegogo, who contributed the donation.
According to Nepali government figures, over 8,000 people died, over 20,000 were injured and more than three million people lost their homes during the earthquake. Three years later, efforts are still being made to not only restore lives but also rebuild the country in a sustainable way.
Follow the Little Sun lamps’ journey, from shining a light on climate action on September 14th in San Francisco, to changing lives in Nepal.
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Photo credits: UNDP, Kigaku Noah Rossetter, Peter Fankhauser