University of Mary Washington senior Luci Coleman has just one thing on her Christmas list – Luci Lanterns.
She’s already purchased nearly 400 of the solar-powered lanterns, which she will deliver to families during a three-week trip over semester break to Moshi, Tanzania, where she will teach English and math to children, prepare meals for local families and share tips about organic farming.
“Candles and kerosene lamps are their main source of light at night,” said Coleman, who is volunteering through the Friends of Tanzania, based in Arlington, and the Komboa Vulnerable Groups Association learning center, located on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. “But they’re also unsustainable and a safety hazard, causing many homes to catch fire, leaving families homeless.”
That’s where the importance of Luci Lanterns comes in, she said. Running off sustainable energy, Luci Lanterns, coincidentally named, are durable, waterproof and include an important S.O.S. setting – crucial for young girls and women who often walk through dangerous areas to get home at night.
With an original fundraising goal of $500, Coleman set up a Go Fund Me page and reached out to fellow community members to spread the word. Since August, she’s raised nearly $3,000 that enabled her to purchase the 400 lanterns that will be donated to orphanages, schools and individual families. But Coleman is far from finished. She will continue to accept donations as long as the need is there, she said.
A double major in biology and environmental geology, she discovered her passion for helping people last December, when she traveled to Capetown, South Africa, on a faculty-led study abroad.
While she talked of the rich history and beauty that she enjoyed, it was really the people and the culture that opened her eyes. Coleman thinks back to a moment when she stood near a highway at the border of Langa township; one side exemplified the luxury lifestyle, and the other left her with heartache.
“People are suffering just feet away from a surface that is frequented by BMWs and Mercedes,” she explained. “At that moment, I realized how critical the social and culture pillars of sustainability were, something I had never appreciated.”
“My experiences at UMW have truly changed who I am and what I believe in,” said Coleman. “I have grown in so many ways. The Luci Lanterns are not just a way to give a gift to orphaned children, but are a way to provide them with a sustainable light source that will help them overcome the poverty cycle.”
Coleman, who also works for Next Tier Concepts in Northern Virginia, plans to continue immersing herself in projects such as the solar lanterns. After graduation, she aims for a career working with environmental nonprofit organizations.
“The Luci Lanterns will truly change the lives of hundreds of Moshi residents,” she said. “I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I’ve received.”