A nonprofit organization based out of Chicago is “lighting up the lives” of thousands of individuals around the world enshrouded by darkness by providing solar-powered lighting to them.
It all began when a mom of five, Nancy Economou, accompanied her husband on a business trip to the Philippines in 2009.
“While there, I met a young girl who had scars and burns all over her face, and they were putting toothpaste on it,” Nancy said in an interview with The One Of a Million project.
Nancy remembers asking what was happening and was told that the girl had burned herself due to the usage of a kerosene lamp that the villagers use as a source of light to complete their work and household chores all due to the absence of alternatives.
“I came home from that trip and just felt called to bring solar lights to people,” Nancy regaled. Slowly but surely, her dream gained traction.
Nancy then founded Watts of Love in the summer of 2012, out of Chicago. Despite not having a background in lighting or technology, she set to work establishing her nonprofit in collaboration with experts in the field.
Watts of Love’s original solar light comprised a solar panel along with an MP3 and radio capability so that people could listen to the news. In 2018, Nancy designed and patented a new light, which was smaller and lighter. After a full day charging in the sun, a glowing YouTube product review explains, the lamp can provide up to 120 hours of light on its lowest setting.
“They can physically wear this new light on their body, or on their head, and be hands-free,” said Nancy to The One Of a Million project. “That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge deal. It’s a game-changer.”
Nancy’s very first ambition was to return to the Philippines to repay the community that had inspired her to start this dream project. Since then, a number of success stories have stood out to the Watts of Love family as exemplary results of their mission.
The team met Daisy, a poverty-stricken mom of two, when she was assigned as their “local translator” in Haiti. They gifted her a solar light, but Daisy, defeated by circumstance, could not relate to its potential.
One year later, Watts of Love returned. Daisy was a changed woman.
“Daisy had bought chickens,” the team explained while sharing their success story, “paid for her children’s medical bills, and put her kids in school.” No longer dependent upon kerosene, Daisy had saved money and was thriving.
However, it wasn’t just Daisy whose life had changed for the better; Watts of Love has delivered over 40,000 lights to people and families in need across 46 countries, impacting their lives in innumerable ways.
“A light is not just a light,” Watts of Love posted on Facebook, in one of many mission updates from overseas; “volunteers teach solar light recipients that they can save money by not buying dangerous kerosene for light,” they wrote. “They can use that money towards enriching their family’s economic status.”
Recently, the nonprofit is also changing lives closer to home. In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, the Watts of Love team traveled to southwest Louisiana in September, armed with 600 solar lights, in search of the families and individuals in Lake Charles and surrounding communities.
(Courtesy of Watts of Love)
Nancy raised some funds and gathered a team of 10 volunteers, and with the help of United Airlines donating the miles to get the team to and from Louisiana, they embarked on a mission to help those in need.
“I’ve been to a lot of disasters—in the Philippines, Nepal, Mozambique, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Texas,” Nancy said, according to a press release. “I’ve seen a lot of destruction, but this was as widespread and as severe as I’ve ever seen. People are really in need.”
Uᴘᴅᴀᴛᴇ: these solar lights mean more than you could ever imagine. Our team is doing an amazing job of restoring hope…
“There’s so much devastation,” Nancy reflected, speaking to KPLC 7, “and Watts of Love is really focused on people that are elderly and living alone.”
Together, they plan to bring light into the lives of those in Louisiana.
Nancy says that knowing there are around 1 billion people worldwide thrown into darkness after sundown gives her a sense of urgency.
“We did a capstone study with NYU in January  on the impacts of Watts of Love in Haiti,” she explained to The One Of a Million project, “and the study showed that the two biggest factors that came out of the light distribution were self-worth and economic freedom.”
“Who would have thought you could create those changes with a solar-powered light?” Nancy exclaimed. “You can literally lift a family out of poverty in one generation.”
(Courtesy of Watts of Love)
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