I’ve been following a story with great interest on the iWeb (eBay‘s worldwide intranet for employees) regarding Anna Sidana, director of Financial Products at PayPal, and a truly remarkable journey she embarked upon 5 years ago to bring light to families that live without electricity around the world. Her inspiration came from a school that her father started 45 years ago to serve the children in a farming village located in the desert of Rajasthan, India. He started an elementary school with just five children – four boys and one girl.
Here is the iWeb story capturing how it all began:
The village and the school were not in good condition when she visited. Children in the rural communities are mostly farm hands or family laborers during the day. If they are lucky enough to go to a school, the rest of the day is spent helping their family with chores. The only opportunity for these children to study is during the evening after the sun sets and sadly, most of them live without adequate lighting. But the warmth and the desire of the people to succeed came through and the trip ended up being more rewarding than she had expected.
“This was the trip that made me realize what was really important to me and changed the way I thought about life,” Anna explained. “I knew that I had to do something for the children at my father’s school. They were motivated, focused and eager to learn. I could tell they were bright and despite their simple living conditions, they would make the most of any opportunity provided to them.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Anna set out to do something for these children. In 2004, she got involved with a company called Cosmos Ignite Innovations. A company made up of young entrepreneurs from India and Stanford University, Cosmos Ignite is behind the development of MightyLight, a solar lamp for rural environments.
The MightyLight is a 100 percent solar-powered LED light. The LED bulb can last for more than 50,000 hours and offers more than 15 years of life with an average usage of eight hours a day. The MightyLight has a long life-span because it is water-resistant, durable and reliable. Also, since the light is solar powered, it’s much safer and more environmentally friendly than kerosene lamps. Anna immediately knew that this was the perfect solution for the children at the school.
In January 2008, Anna with the help of a corporate sponsor successfully obtained a donation of 15,000 lights for distribution to families and children in India and Africa.
Anna Sidana (middle) signs the notebooks of a group of students after presenting them with their own MightyLights.
Exactly 45 years after Anna’s father achieved his dream of opening a school, Anna’s own dream came true when she was able to hand-deliver 250 MightyLights, a light for every child, to her father’s school with her two children, her brother and parents.
“The children at the school understand and appreciate the gift they have received,” Anna said. “Even if this generation of adults is uneducated, their children will have a chance for a better life. Through education, they can gain awareness, learn to stand up for themselves and create a voice for their community and future generations.”
Anna’s new goal
In 2008, Anna started a nonprofit organization called One Million Lights. She named this nonprofit after her new ambitious goal of giving one million MightyLights to families living without electricity in the world.
“I am proud to work for a company that inspires me in my own efforts to improve the quality of life for others around the world,” Anna said. “eBay’s own global citizenship work is proof that this is the right company for anyone who is passionate about making a difference, and fulfilling a mission to improve communities around the world.”
The mission of Anna’s nonprofit is to improve the lives of adults and children in rural parts of the world. She believes that these children will light up the world for everyone. But first we must light up their minds through education.
Like I said, this is a pretty remarkable story and one that doesn’t end there. A press release earlier today explained that eBay is helping support Anna’s quest by donating 15,000 MightyLights to children in India and Africa on behalf of its employees.
How can you help? To learn more about One Million Lights, visit www.onemillionlights.org.
I get ribbed from time to time that my optimistic take on life is somewhat naive but Anna Sidana is proof positive that even in the fast-paced world we live in, one person can indeed make a difference and we’re all better off for it.