NBC Affilliate KXAN Interview the Grid Earth Project

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KXAN talks with the Director of the Grid Earth Project about the dangers of kerosene when used as a source of household lighting.

Sally Hernandez interviews Audrey Cochran about the Grid Earth Project

Kerosene burns kill one person every 21 seconds.

Grid Earth Project lights up lives.
Nonprofit brings power of light to remote areas
Updated: Monday, 16 Jul 2012, 1:43 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 16 Jul 2012, 8:23 AM CDT

To view the interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOGjFK11Jgw&feature=share

AUSTIN (KXAN) - An Austin couple is changing lives, one light at a time.

John and Audrey Cochran created the Grid Earth Project in 2010 and received nonprofit status in January.

The organization brings solar-powered, white LED lights to impoverished areas where people are forced to live "off the grid" and rely on kerosene.

"It's changing the health, the education opportunities and the economic opportunities for these families," said Audrey Cochran.

The World Health Organization estimates 1.8 billion people on Earth are living without access to electricity.

Many use wood or coal for heat and light, but many more use kerosene -- which is costly and dangerous.

Two million people die from toxic fumes each year, according to Harvard Science Review. And WHO officials report kerosene burns kill 1.5 million people per year, mostly children under age 14.

Beyond the deaths and burn injuries, kerosene lamps can damage vision. The light produced from a single kerosene lantern emits only 1/30th of the recommended amount of light required for reading.

But for many families, the harm is financial. In some cases, kerosene can cost half of a family's income, forcing them to chose between light and other resources -- even a child's education.

One of the project's success stories demonstrates the ripple effect that one light can have. Emily lives in a village called Bomba in Belize. Her family was paying $28 each month for kerosene. Her school cost them $7 a week. When Emily reached 8th grade, they had to make a choice between the two.

The Grid Earth Project stepped in and gave Emily's family a household light. With the money saved, they sent Emily to 8th grade, where she made excellent grades and secured a four-year scholarship to cover the expense of high school. She hopes to become a doctor and bring health care resources back to her village.

"They just can't believe that someone would give this to them and not expect anything in return. And it makes such a difference in their lives," said Cochran.

The project is fully funded by private donations. They have members who pledge $5 per month or $50 per year to receive updates on projects, resources and expansions.

A one-time $20 donation buys a personal light for a child or individual who does not have a permanent dwelling. A $50 donation buys a household light that can illuminate a 10-foot radius. All donations are tax-deductible.

The Grid Earth Project also works with mission groups and community service organizations to provide lamps for their projects as well. The lights work for six hours on a high setting and 12 hours on low.

Their next project is scheduled for August in San Mateo, Belize.

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