Students who use kerosene lamps for several hours a day as they do their homework are exposed to smoke that is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, according to non-profit Extend the Day. Throughout the world, 1.8 million people die annually from indoor air pollution caused by kerosene. Extend the Day Co-Founder and Executive Director Jo Lonseth noticed during her world travels that lack of access to clean light was one of the most common issues throughout the world. In fact, nearly 80 percent of people in developing nations rely on burning lights or kerosene lamps to light up their world.
In an effort to tackle air pollution caused by the lamps, Lonseth and her father created the Seattle-based non-profit Extend the Day to offer free solar-powered reading lights to children without electricity. “We were suckers for kids anyway, but we also know that to break the cycle of poverty, we believe that that starts with an education with the youth,” Lonseth said. So far, the organization has provided over 15,000 solar-powered lights to children in 10 developing nations in just two years.
Now Extend the Day is sharing some of the insights that they’ve gleaned during the team’s research and travels in a documentary that showcases the impact that access to clean energy has made on children’s lives and education. Into the Light follows the Extend the Day staff as they distribute solar lights to children in Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. The documentary screens for free this Thursday, June 7 at the Seattle Center Armory at 6 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to reserve their seats beforehand, as space is limited. Another screening will take place at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art on Saturday, June 16 at 6 p.m.
During her travels, Lonseth was most struck by the students who received solar-powered lamps in the Rohingya refugee camps. Despite the tribulations they’d already faced in their short lives, their optimism was abundant. She hopes that the documentary offers a glimpse into the power of resilience, and that it allows viewers to acknowledge their own privilege.
“It’s an incredible way to kind of just take a moment of our lives here in a very sensible and privileged area just to see how more than 1.2 billion people who don’t have access to electricity actually live,” Lonseth said.
Extend the Day hopes to continue growing, and recently received a grant that will allow them to expand their efforts to an orphanage in Haiti. In the future, the team also plans to sell its lights with every purchase covering the cost of distributing a free light to a person without electricity.
Update: A previous version of this article listed the incorrect film showtimes. It has been corrected.