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In 2009, Amy O’Shea traveled to Uganda where she quickly learned that energy access is a major economic and health obstacle in that country. Nearly 1.2 billion people lack access to basic electricity, making it difficult to study, work and travel safely after dark. Seven years later she founded Bright Books – Journals That Provide Light Across the World.
You can order your Bright Books here.
Launched just last month here in Washington, DC, she is currently raising funds to develop her cause-driven journals. For every pair of Bright Books journals purchased, one solar light to a child without access to electricity. Bright Books works with non-profits to distribute lights to children and families in schools and refugee camps in the most underserved areas of the world. More than 120 lights have already been donated to students at the Arlington Academy of Hope in rural Uganda.
I was able to catch up with Amy O’Shea to learn a little bit more about this fantastic project that is not only functional, but also fashionable.
How did you come up with the idea for the journals?
I started Bright Books out of a strong desire to fight energy poverty for the nearly 1.2 billion people who currently lack access to basic electricity. In 2009, I volunteered at a school in rural Uganda through the Arlington Academy of Hope. In my few months living in Bumwalukani, the remote village in eastern Uganda, I quickly learned that some basic necessities, like electricity, are sparse. Without lighting, normal tasks like homework and reading after dark are difficult and even dangerous. So, I brainstormed ideas on how to generate funds for energy access. I have always loved journaling, and wanted to get involved in the give-back retail movement—so Bright Books was born.
How long has it taken to get the project off the ground?
I have been noodling with the idea for almost 2 years now, but I’m still working full time at my day job, so things have moved slowly. This has been my “serious nights and weekends” project for the last 9 months or so.
Did you have experience with design or retail prior to the initiative? How did you learn about it?
Does making infographics as a consultant count as design experience? (Just kidding). But, yes, I have previously worked in retail as a sales associate. Those experiences taught me quality and customer service are the most important things to consumers when it comes to high-end goods.
Since I decided to run with Bright Books, I have leaned on family and friends to help me learn about manufacturing and wholesale. I’m very grateful to the owners of Just Paper & Tea in Georgetown who helped me grow this project into a reality.
Why are you launching the project in DC?
I have lived in DC for 4 years now and I have grown to love it here, so it just made sense to start here.
Your initial goal is to raise $7000. What happens when you reach this number?
By reaching the $7,000 marker, I am considering this proof of concept and a reality check that this is something people are interested in and are willing to support. In reality, I would like to get about 30% higher than this goal, but $7,000 helps off-set start-up and manufacturing costs. Regardless of whether or not we hit this goal, the journals will still be produced. And we will hit this goal –I am determined. I am not letting myself think about alternatives for what happens if we don’t reach it!
Meet Aisha: She is student at @aahuganda in a small village in eastern Uganda. She is lucky to have one wired light bulb in her house. However, power is extremely unpredictable in her rural community and her family is often without power for weeks at a time. When there is no power, Aisha and her family members have to rely on small paraffin gaslights, which provide a very dull light. This causes issues when Aisha and her siblings have to do homework late at night. #brightbooks is working to change that! With her solar light, she is able to study a little longer at night without worrying about if the power is working or if they have enough paraffin for the night. [? credit to the wonderful @daniellefortin and @aahuganda ]
Who designed the journals for you?
I designed them with the help of Midnight Confetti and some very talented designers on UpWork.
What is your long-term hope for the project?
I would love Bright Books to produce a whole line of sustainably-produced, practical goods that help fight energy poverty in a variety of ways. My background is in policy analysis and energy, so I am always analyzing the “what next” and trying to foresee the “unintended consequences” of everything. I want Bright Books to help fund larger renewable energy projects in places without clean electricity and to do so responsibly.