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Brighter lives for refugees
The impact of light and energy
The IKEA Foundation and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are working together to find renewable energy and lighting solutions to improve the lives of refugees in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sudan and Jordan.
The story of Sadaa & EmtyazThe story of Mohammed & TamaraThe story of NurThe story of MohammadStory from two energy-expertsStory from two energy-experts
Sadaa & Emtyaz:
A chance to survive, a chance to live
 Emtyaz, pictured in her family shelter at Azraq Refugee camp with an IKEA Foundation solar lantern.
Sadaa and Emtyaz arrived in Azraq refugee camp one year ago with just the clothes on their backs and their three small children Malik (7 years), Hamid (5 years) and Masa (4 years).
“Becoming a refugee is a life lesson on how to be humble,” says father of three Sadaa. “Like everyone, we used to complain when things in our country weren’t right, when our lives weren’t going the way we expected, but we’ve come back to earth over the past few years and we have learnt what we have lost.”
“Can you imagine that in Syria, before the war we were unable to decide on if our floors should be marble or granite?! But when we arrived here, we were grateful for this basic shelter and any kind of floor beneath our feet because it meant finally, we were safe.”
a family walking on a dirt pathway between tin shelters, pained with colorful images, a solar street lamp in the background.
“When the [solar powered] streetlights were installed, it felt like a further push to help us have a better life here. Suddenly, we could sit outside again at night. The children could play outside into the evening. We could again have gatherings together as a family and with friends. With the streetlights, our old life didn’t feel like a dream,” he explains.
“This camp has given us a chance to survive in safety, but providing electricity here would give us another chance at life,” explains Sadaa’s wife, Emtyaz.
“With electricity we could have proper lights inside the shelter, we could have a fridge so that our food doesn’t spoil and we could give the children cold water when it is so hot. We could also have a fan. We used to have air conditioning, but now we would be so grateful just for a fan!”
Masa (4 years old) plays with her favorite doll in the family shelter at Azraq refugee camp.
“We also hope that the construction of the solar farm will bring work opportunities. We’re grateful for all the help we have received but we would like to support ourselves.”
“When the [solar powered] streetlights were installed it felt like a further push to help us have a better life here.”
The story of Sadaa & EmtyazThe story of Mohammed & TamaraThe story of NurThe story of MohammadStory from two energy-expertsStory from two energy-experts
The new light in our lives
Four-year-old Mutaz with his parents, Mohammad and Tamara, in Azraq refugee camp.
Tamara and Mohammad have been at Azraq camp for one year. They arrived with their four-year-old son, Mutaz, and recently Tamara gave birth to a baby girl, Rabia, “the new light in our lives.” She is just 18 days old.
“In the end, it was impossible to live in Syria. We were scared all the time and worried as we did not know who the enemy was and none of the fighting sides worried if they caught up families like us in the crisis,” explains Mohammad.
“It took one month for us to get from Homs to Jordan. We were exhausted when we got here and after we arrived here, it took us a couple of months to relax and feel properly safe.”
“At the beginning life in Azraq was very tough, but day by day it got easier as we adjusted and compared to just a few months ago, things are better. When electricity arrives, that will be great.”
“The least of our worries was the shelter or where we would live,” says Mohammad’s wife, Tamara. “The main thing was that we were safe and that no bombs would fall.”
a newborn baby refugee sleeps under a UNHCR mosquito net in the family shelter. A green carpet with UNHCR printed on it.
“Electricity is everything though, it will change everything here. Many families are struggling to survive out of the camps but if electricity comes to Azraq, people will feel that they are able to live here – that there is quality of life. We tell them how things are getting better here every month,” says Mohammad.
“It’s all of the little things that are changing month on month. At first we had sand floors, now we have concrete, at first there was a short time to collect water, now we have longer. The solar lanterns are better quality – they are lighter to use and also allow so many different phones to be charged so that we can always keep talking to family. UNHCR has worked hard to get the rodents away and the concrete floor has stopped scorpions,” says Tamara.
“Lanterns have three different switch options so we can have different strength of light which is useful,” says Mohammad, demonstrating the light options and the phone charging facility.
“Electricity is the best for life however – that will help us so we don’t suffer in this heat. Summers here are like nothing we have experienced before.
UNHCR Field Associate Khaled Al-Jaman laughs with four-year-old Mutaz in the family shelter at Azraq refugee camp.
Priority for our family is light inside the shelter – to be able to turn on a switch and have enough to read would be wonderful. Outside the shelter is also important as it’s difficult to move around outside without falling and the children are too scared at night.”
“My brother was 9 when he was shot by a sniper, 100m from our home. I miss him dearly. He was more important than any house. All I wish for now is that my children have a better life – a life away from war, and hopefully back in a Syria that is safe,” says Tamara.
“It’s difficult to move around outside without falling and the children are too scared at night.”
The story of Sadaa & EmtyazThe story of Mohammed & TamaraThe story of NurThe story of MohammadStory from two energy-expertsStory from two energy-experts
Nur Bahar:
From nervous to happy
a green tin shack with a woman standing in the doorway holding a pot of food
26-year-old Nur Bahar has come from Aciap in Myanmar. She arrived at Nayapara refugee camp with her parents and siblings when she was 3-year-old.
Nur is separated from her husband who left for Malaysia eight years ago. Nur is skilled at tailoring and embroidery. She studied till sixth grade, but wants higher education for her seven-year-old daughter, Rubiya Akter who now studies in second grade.
“I was nervous when I first saw the new stoves. I thought I might burn my hands,” Nur smiles.
“Before these stoves were installed, I used leaves and Compressed Rice Husks. These created fumes inside the cooking shed, but the new stoves don’t have that problem. I like these because I don’t have to blow anymore to light the fire. The new stoves are better for our skin, hair, and overall health.”
“I feel happy. It has made cooking easier.”
The story of Sadaa & EmtyazThe story of Mohammed & TamaraThe story of NurThe story of MohammadStory from two energy-expertsStory from two energy-experts
Mohammad Salim:
Building trust through education
34-year old Mohammad Salim is a religious teacher at Nurani Madrasa (a seminary). He has worked as a community volunteer since 2009, raising awareness about hygiene among the refugees. Salim came to Bangladesh from Buthidaung of Myanmar with his mother and elder brother when he was 12-year-old. Salim and his elder brother were used as forced laborers by the local authorities in his village to build bridges and cook at the army camp. Hence they had to leave everything behind and become refugees.
Salim does not use the biogas himself because there is no biogas facility next to his shed, however he educates others on the benefits of using it.
“Refugees often want to know whether biogas is haram (prohibited) or halal (permitted) as this is made from bio waste. I tell them that the fuel is being used in some renowned Madrasas in the country and that it is halal and safe to use.”
a bearded man with two women and two men in the background
“Some people in the community find biogas smelly. I tell them when you switch on LP (Liquid Petroleum) gas, it has some odor. Biogas has a similar smell. It’s not stench.”
“I also tell the community that the smoke generated from CRH or firewood is harmful for their health.” During his talks with the community, Salim encourages people to put vegetable waste in the bio-digester so that they can be part of the fuel production.
Salim says he finds his job meaningful because cleanliness was cherished by Prophet Muhammad.
“People listen to us. The camp has become three times cleaner than before”.
The story of Sadaa & EmtyazThe story of Mohammed & TamaraThe story of NurThe story of MohammadStory from two energy-expertsStory from two energy-experts
An interview with two UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, energy experts
We asked UNHCR’s Energy Expert, Paul Mccallion, about why he is passionate about bringing light and energy to refugee communities across the world….
Why did you want to work for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency?

Currently, in the development/ humanitarian sector, there aren’t a lot of NGOs prioritizing renewable energy and I really wanted to be a part of an organization that is doing so, because the impact for the communities who will benefit is so significant. I joined UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in March 2014.
How did you become interested in working in the renewable energy sector?

I was working in the electrical energy sector and it became blatantly obvious there was no sustainable path for electricity with the way the sector was working. I knew this sustainable future had to be explored and I wanted to get involved as soon as possible and so I made a career change that lead me towards the NGO sector and eventually UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Can you briefly summarize what you do in your role?

In my role I focus on implementing renewable energy options for refugee communities in the regions where the IKEA Foundation is partnering with UNHCR, namely Jordan, Bangladesh, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

I look at what renewable technologies are available and strong in each particular region and then look at the shortfalls in those technologies and try to find new ways forward, marrying what we have and what we don’t, to give refugees the energy solutions they need.

The other part of my role is two fold – firstly, working to establish partnerships with companies who have an interest in renewable energy and technology to support our work and secondly, improving the overall organizational knowledge within UNHCR so that we can better provide energy solutions to the refugees we support.
Why is light and power essential aid for refugee communities?

Light and power are essential aid services. Light is life and we have become so conditioned to having light and power at the touch of a switch that it would be difficult to forget what it’s like not to have it. It’s almost unthinkable and it’s the same for refugee communities that UNHCR supports.
UNHCR staff members looks lovingly at a UNHCR solar lantern, standing with his hand on his hip, a water bottle in his hand, a baseball cap on his head and better shelters in the background
At the individual and the family level the impact of light and power is phenomenal – nights are long and with light people have opportunities and freedoms that are lost when the sun goes down.
What is the biggest challenge in your role?

The biggest challenge in my role is accepting that there are limitations. There are limitations to what renewable energies can do in each region and in refugee camps. There are also limitations between how renewable technologies can work and how refugees would like to use them. So, for example, some technologies are better for heating, others for refrigeration but that might not be what refugees want or need. There are also limitations with how much energy we can create and distribute to each refugee. We can’t do it all and accepting that is a big challenge for me.
Is there a particular “light bulb” moment that made you realize how important energy or light is to communities? And can you tell us about that?

In 2006 -2007, I was working in West Africa and it was there I really noticed and understood the impact of street lighting. First thing we noticed was an increase of adult literacy classes at night. Classes were being run on the streets and we also saw children spending time with parents and adults in their family, teaching them to read in the
a barrel chested, refugee staff member with a ginger beard and moustache, looks longingly into the distance with his chest puffed out and his eyes squinting from the sun
evening when before that was not possible. The second thing we saw was that crime decreased in areas with street lighting. There were fewer house burglaries and people, especially women, felt safer in their community and stayed out later at night. Women said they finally felt safe to walk home alone and this gave them more freedom. A simple solution with a big impact on daily life.
Why should supporters and customers support the IKEA Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign?

Supporters and customers should support this campaign because it will have such a direct impact on refugee families – light can make such a difference to a family in a camp. If you think of it this way, for every light bulb a family buys in an IKEA store you will be helping to give light to a family in a camp in Jordan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia or Sudan. It’s one family giving light to another.
Portrait of Paul Quigley, a UNHCR staff member standing with his arms folded across his chest and a large map of the camp on the wall behind him
Paul has been working in Jordan for over a year managing the development and installation of IKEA Foundation funded sustainable energy solutions.
“Finding sustainable energy solutions for refugees living in camps is crucial to ensuring that families who have been forced to flee have a decent quality of life. Electricity is not a ‘nice to have’ in Azraq camp or any camp, it’s an essential service to help families cope with the extreme weather – from highs of nearly 50 degrees Celsius in summer and lows that can bring snow in the winter.”
The sun sets over Azraq refugee camp and the IKEA Foundation installed, solar powered streetlights start to come on
“In the past year, the IKEA Foundation has funded the installation of hundreds of solar street lights in Azraq camp and these really have made a huge difference to people living here. Families tell us that they feel safer at night and are able to socialize in the evening with family and friends because of the street lights.”
“Each family has also been given two new solar lanterns with the ability and capacity to efficiently charge different kinds of mobile phones. The lanterns are light and portable and can be used both within the family shelter and outside, by adults and children, allowing people to move around more freely and safely outside.”
Solar powered streetlights illuminate Azraq refugee camp, helping refugee families to move safely and easily around at night
“As part of the IKEA Foundation energy projects for 2015, we’ll also be installing LED powered, high energy efficient streetlights in the remainder of the camp. Starting at the end of this year the solar power plant, which will supply energy to the whole of Azraq camp as well as Za’atari camp, is being built and really will enable UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to provide electricity to the families in a cost-effective way.”
a student in sierra leone sits at a desk looking through a book
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