It’s been two months since Hurricane Maria and much of Puerto Rico is still without power. A man with ties to New Orleans is in need of residents’ help.
When Rick King left his life-long home in New Orleans after graduating from Loyola, he became a film maker in New York. Non-profits called on him to make documentaries to fundraise for their missions. That brought him into disaster zones – the earthquake in Haiti, the earthquake in Nepal and the Syrian refugee camps in Greece.
Along the way, he met Alice Chun who created solar puff, light weight solar lamps. They soon realized the difference they could make in disaster areas.
“They fill a need that's simple you know and that's what I loved about them and it helps people that are living in darkness,” Chun said.
After delivering thousands in disaster areas, they turned their sights to Puerto Rico after the destruction of Hurricane Maris and the non-profit Solar4PR was created. The goal is to raise money to bring light to the 3.5 million people there.
“They need 100,000 lights down there. I mean you can't drive in any direction for 100 yards without driving over downed power lines. The telephone poles are snapped like toothpicks,” King said.
The puff lights are light weight, inexpensive, flatten for easy travel and give 12 hours of bright light after the solar charge in the day. They can hang, float on water, even flash for an SOS and can give colored light.
Volunteers came together to fly them to Puerto Rico. In a downpour handing them out on a roadside, King remembers the words of one little boy.
“He said to me ‘Why are you giving these out?’ and I said because you're Americans and we love you and he gave me this big hug and it was just so heartwarming,” King said.
So far they have raised $82,000, enough to bring 7,000 to the island and actors and others have joined in. A corporate lawyer volunteered his plane and fuel to fly them down.
“We gave 100s of them out to the hospital workers because the hospital doesn't have electricity there, they are running off of generators. So everywhere you look there's just people in need and so appreciative,” King said.
Now, King needs help to raise money to deliver many more and hopes the sunny island can become a solar state.
“I think this is an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to actually become more sustainable in their energy needs and that is, I think, the positive that can come out of it,” King said.
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