My Story with Solight Design - Sherrye

Alice Min Soo Chun
CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER
Alice Min Soo Chun is an Inventor, Social Entrepreneur, and CEO of Solight Design. Fueled by her passion for helping the underserved, Alice has invented products that address global crises. Her first invention, the SolarPuff, has impacted over 1 million people living in underserved regions worldwide.

Sherrye Solight Design
   I was raised in Puerto Rico, an island full of beauty and friendly people. The area I grew up in is located in the center of the island.  Throughout my childhood, we experienced power outages several times a week and we would go for days without having any electricity. Growing up without reliable electricity had a significant impact on my daily life. There was no light to do homework, cook or bathe ourselves and we did not have enough money to purchase a generator at the time. To light our kitchen, we would use what is known as a “Quinque” which uses kerosene. This was strategically placed in a corner of the dining table to light the hallway so that we could get from room to room throughout the house.
Kerosene Lamp

   Ever since I can remember, I’ve had asthma. Visiting the hospital at least three times a year was normal for me. Had I known the power of a solar lantern, maybe I I would have had less hospital visits. 

I remember going out for walks in the neighborhood and as my little feet walked through the broken pavement my breath would slowly begin to shorten. My lungs were overpowered by a strong smell, one that led me to having to rely on my nebulizer at least three times a day. This odd smell was kerosene, our only reliable source of light. In addition, the neighbor’s generator and smell of burning diesel was making my health worse, limiting the time I could spend outside. 

 Nonetheless I thrived, and against all odds I’m here. When you live in a small island where the electric infrastructure collapses regularly, smells like kerosene and diesel can be pretty much everywhere.  

I have been through several Hurricanes (you get used to them if you live in the Caribbean) but none of them prepared me for Hurricane Maria. The world’s eyes were on us, many non-profits were arriving in Puerto Rico to distribute food, water and essential items. It was a rough couple of months. We did not have any electricity for over 5 months. My mother’s home was destroyed as the windows and doors broke with the harsh winds and everything inside the house was flooded. My home got flooded and crimes began to spike as us residents realized that there was not enough food, gasoline or water for our people.  If it wasn’t for the help we got, I’m not sure I would have eaten every day of the week, so I considered myself blessed.

 

Water Truck Puerto Rico

 

    I was forced to get a generator with a ridiculous markup cost (regular cost $600, after Hurricane Maria the cost was $3,500) because electricity was forecasted to take several months to return. I remember waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air because of the smell from the generators being used in the community. I remember being afraid that my inhaler would run out because there were little to no medicines available as the pharmaceutical systems were down and there was chaos.

    As I grew up, I became interested in how I could help my body heal, how I could help other children to avoid the experiences and health issues I experienced. While working for a non-profit, I had the task of finding flashlights for communities affected by Hurricane Maria. I landed on distributing solar lanterns as they would be charged by the sun and we would not need to purchase batteries. I researched three companies that manufactured solar lanterns and I decided on Solight Design’s Solar Helix. The most interesting feature that convinced me to choose the Solight Design products was the “self-inflatable” feature. Why? When you work for a NGO your task is to avoid or reduce any potential outbreak during your response therefore I had found a lantern that would avoid 100% the transmission of  boldly fluid (the other lanterns needed to be blown up though a mouth nozzle). Second would be the aesthetic, I was evaluating how elegant a product looks while helping our planet. We wanted to give people a solar lantern that can empower them and provide dignity with high quality materials. 

    What a relief it was to find Solight. Seeing the family's eyes light up when we distributed the lights was priceless. I can’t begin to think how different the hurricane aftermath would have been if we had Solar lanterns in our emergency backpacks. After distributing the solar lanterns we got a lot of feedback from the community: families began to gather in the afternoons again, kids and teenagers were able to do homework at night, families were inspired to create an emergency backpacks with our Solar Puff and Solar Helix as part of the kit, and women were able to walk at night in between the fallen trees! 

 

Family with Solight Solar Lanterns

When given the opportunity to work at Solight Design full time, I did not think twice about the decision to join the team. I had found a company that shared my values and had the power to help other individuals, to have a positive impact on all living beings.

I moved to NYC to join the Solight Design team full time and I was living in New York when COVID19 started. My mother (being a Mom) asked me to quarantine in February 2020 since she was closely following what was happening around the world and she forecasted that we needed to self-isolate for a while. I had never been home and alone for so much time. My anxiety was at an all-time high, I could not sleep, I lost over 20lbs causing an underweight, I was sleeping 2hours a day and I had two burnouts where I needed IV for 3+ days. One random day, I decided to use my Qwnn instead of the light bulbs…and I felt oddly calm, I felt I was at my own private retreat. I got curious and decided to use only Solight’s solar lanterns during the night. I used two Solar Helixes and one QWNN  and my electric bill went down over $23.00! The fact that it helped me manage my anxiety made it worth it but knowing it helped me financially sold it for me. I developed a routine with my QWNN and I would sit on my fire escape and listen to music each while my QWNN was lit right by my side. I would take long baths while my Solar Helix was floating in the bathtub. I would cook and eat dinner in the calming light of the QWNN and found that the Solights would help me unplug, unwind, and heal at night.

    Now that I am living in Puerto Rico again, I still use my solar lanterns at night. Now, more than ever, I wish more people knew the power of the sun. Solight’s lights have the power to reduce life-threatening pollutants that increase risk of childhood asthma all over the world. Had my family and my community relied on Solights instead of kerosene and gas generators, it is likely that I would not have developed asthma. In addition, Solight has the power to create joy and hope by spreading light throughout the world. Solight’s products have truly changed my and my community’s life for the better and I am grateful to be a part of such an awesome team.

 

 

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