Disrupting Design

Design to benefit the world: This solar-powered backpack improves health and education

Many children without electricity need kerosene lamps to study — but kerosene is toxic. Now, Kenyan entrepreneur Salima Visram is using design to change lives.

Many children without electricity need kerosene lamps to study — but kerosene is toxic

Many children must study by toxic kerosene lamps. This solar-powered backpack and light improves health and education. (CBC)

Born on the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya, Salima Visram saw thousands around her living in poverty. "Being exposed to that made me realize it's my responsibility to use my education to benefit the world," she says.

Children need kerosene lamps to study, but kerosene is toxic

After moving to Montreal to attend McGill University, Visram designed the Soular Backpack to help tackle one of the "multitude of problems related to education of children in Kenya." Many children in Kenya live in homes without electricity and must use harmful kerosene lamps to study at night. The Soular Backpack has a solar panel on it which charges a portable LED lamp inside of it, eliminating the need for kerosene.

Many children around the world must use kerosene lamps to study. (CBC)

Visram says that 4000 deaths occur daily as a result of kerosene-induced illnesses, but without kerosene lamps kids can't study. "Without education, there's no way out of poverty."

Help from Disney and Lupita Nyong'o

Since our video was produced, Salima's company has coordinated with Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o and Disney to promote the Soular Backpack in connection with their movie Queen of Katwe. In Queen of Katwe, the main character, a Ugandan girl on her way to becoming a competitive chess player, only has kerosene for light at home.

The power is in your step.- Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o

Buying your own backpack means one fewer child needs to use a kerosene lamp

Visram recently moved production of the backpacks to Kenya and sells a variety of backpacks online to the world. If you buy a backpack for yourself, a backpack is given to a child in Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania. As Nyong'o says, quoted on the backpack itself: "The power is in your step."

Disrupting Design celebrates ingenious Canadian designers who are transforming their lives, where they live and the world. Watch Disrupting Design online now.


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