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Buy an LED bulb, shine a light for a child

Starting this month, every LED light purchased at IKEA's stores around the world will help shine lights in refugee camps, making them a safer place for many people, especially women and children.

Starting this month, every LED light purchased at home furnishing giant IKEA’s stores around the world will help shine lights in refugee camps around the world, making them a safer place for many people who seek such shelter after being displaced from their homes.

The retailer has launched Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign for the second year, in which IKEA Foundation – the company’s philanthropic arm – will donate €1 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for every LEDARE light bulb purchased from 1 February to 28 March at participating stores.

The campaign will help fund renewable energy and education projects in Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia, Jordan and Sudan. Solar lanterns, for example, will be provided to enable children to study after dark, and for refugees to continue working to generate income.

First launched last year, the campaign raised €7.7 million for UNHCR through the sale of LED light bulbs across IKEA stores worldwide.

IKEA Foundation’s head of communications and strategic planning Jonathan Spampinato said the foundation hopes the campaign will raise €10 million for UNHCR this year.

“The funds will go into things like solar-powered street lights, solar-powered lanterns and fuel-efficient cooking stoves – things that people in the developed world often take for granted,” said Spaminato at a recent event in Singapore to launch the campaign.

Beyond that, IKEA also hopes the campaign will raise awareness of UNHCR, which works to help millions of people displaced by war, conflict and disaster, he said.

The funds will go into things like solar-powered street lights, solar-powered lanterns and fuel-efficient cooking stoves – things that people in the developed world often take for granted.

Jonathan SpampinatoIKEA Foundation, head of communications and strategic planning

Today, there are some 13 million refugees under UNHCR’s care, half of whom are children. 

The lack or absence of light in many camps can have a devastating effect on the refugees’ safety, education prospects and income. Without light, the day stops at sundown, and the loss of daylight means even simple activities like using the toilet or collecting water can become dangerous, particularly for women and girls, said the organisation.

The Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign aims to benefit some 380,000 refugees and people living in the surrounding host communities of the refugee camps in five countries by 2017, UNHCR’s private partnerships officer Geraldine Ang told Eco-Business.

IKEA Foundation is UNHCR’s largest corporate donor.

In a trip to Iraq last month, UNHCR special envoy and Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie sought to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqi citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

UNHCR said funding shortfalls have “affected the scale and type of programmes to help survivors of violence and human rights abuses alongside the provision of shelter and other assistance”.

While much aid has been provided by governments, UNHCR and partners over the past six months, aid operations are hampered by lack of funding alongside security constraints.

UNHCR, for example, has received only 53 per cent of its required US$337 million for its response to internal displacement in Iraq during 2014, it said.

More 97 per cent of UNHCR’s funding comes from voluntary sources, said Ang. “The private sector including companies, foundations and individuals play an important role in supporting UNHCR’s work…This can take many forms of engagement such as financial contributions, innovative programme partnerships or gifts in kind during emergencies and over the longer term to deliver results for refugees,” she added.

IKEA Singapore’s regional sustainability manager Lee Hui Mien said that apart from the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, the local store also donates furniture for emergency relief, and raises funds for local charities focusing on children and education, among other initiatives.

By 2016, IKEA intends to sell only LED light bulbs – widely regarded as a more sustainable light source that lasts longer and consumes less energy than traditional ones.

In Singapore, IKEA will provide a light bulb exchange for the first 3,000 loyalty cardholders. Customers can also responsibly dispose of their old, incandescent light bulbs at light bulb recycling bins at its two stores in Alexandra and Tampines.

To date, there are 358 IKEA stories in 44 countries. 

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