A Hastings-on-Hudson teenager is receiving national recognition for developing a program that provides solar lanterns to people living without electricity in the developing world.
Since founding the Lit! Project as a 15-year-old, Ben Hirschfeld says he has distributed environmentally-friendly lighting to about 11,300 people in the Philippines, Kenya, South Africa and even Fiji, and there are plans to increase that number to 100,000 in the coming year.
“I’ve learned that to have a lasting impact, it’s important to work with both head and heart,” said Hirschfeld, 18. “I’ve also learned the power of one person to make a difference, and the delight in joining with others to change lives.”
The lanterns replace kerosene lamps, which cause burns and indoor air pollution, and allow families to carry on their lives after dark.While helping the environment by cutting down on carbon dioxide, these lights are funded by a financial model Hirschfeld structured in order to ensure his work is sustainable.
He said families try out the lanterns for free over the course of two weeks, and quickly realize the benefits of not having to purchase kerosene. They then make modest payments to “buy back” the cost-efficient lights.
Hirchfeld’s efforts in the developing world have not gone unrecognized.
He was recently named one of ten national winners in the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a contest that celebrates young young people who have made a positive impact on the planet. Recipients are awarded $2,500 to support their service work or pursuit of higher education.