Cellphones are an object so everyday we often don’t think about them as they lay dormant in our pockets. But for refugees, a cellphone is a lifeline, not a luxury. It’s a way to communicate with loved ones left behind, a portable map, and a social media tool that helps them connect with others in similar situations.
Phones are so essential to refugees that volunteers in Croatia made headlines when they walked around a refugee camp with portable wi-fi devices in backpacks to give everyone the access they needed. But phones have needs, just like people. When you’re on the move, where do you stop and charge your phone when the battery dies?
Enter solar panels. No, not the big unwieldy ones you put on your roof. Portable solar panels. While the consumer uses are obviously convenient – charge your phone whenever you want, just like with any external battery pack – this pocket-sized solar panel is particularly helpful if you’re fleeing a country and aren’t sure when you’ll next have access to an outlet, a privilege we often overlook in our daily lives.
The biggest downside of solar energy is the high price, but it's a chance for others to step up and help those in need. Anyone can step up and, with help from friends and family, crowdfund a bundle of solar energy packs to donate to a refugee camp or an organization helping out at any of the impacted borders. Electricity doesn't magically exist for free (as you know from this month's power bill), and a camp where a large group of people resides is going to use a lot of electricity. Why not help find an alternative, greener energy source to make sure that power never becomes a problem?
And the next time you get upset about your LTE speeds not being up to par, consider those who have no LTE speeds as you spend half an hour on hold with your cell service provider.