Light Up The World


Description of Need

Light Up The World (LUTW) brings electricity to off-grid communities in developing countries. Most of our projects are implemented through volunteer partnerships that LUTW has with top Albertan schools and corporations. With the outbreak of COVID-19, on March 11, we took the decision to postpone the upcoming solar volunteer projects. These projects bring access to energy to schools, medical clinics and community buildings, while giving students from the University of Calgary or SAIT a valuable and unique hands-on learning experience. The COVID-19 situation has evolved to a point where we are now facing a much more severe impact that involves cancelling all our 10 volunteer projects that we had planned for 2020.

The impact on our organization’s continuity is significant. These 10 projects have a combined budget of approximately $400,000, which covers roughly 50% of our operational budget. While we have taken immediate steps to cut back on expenses by reducing staff hours, restructuring and eliminating expenses related to now unfeasible fundraising events – we are in need of urgent financial support to help us navigate these challenging times and continue operations.

Funding will be used to help the organization to pivot and focus on other program areas such as our solar energy training and education programs in Calgary.

These are extremely challenging times. Your donation will help ensure Light Up The World, and the impact of our work, can continue into the future. We appreciate everyone for visiting this site and exploring how you can make a difference. We wish you all good health and look forward to thanking you all in person once this situation is over.



Our Story – Why We Exist

In 1997, Dr. Dave Irvine-Halliday, a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Calgary, had the vision to use LED lighting to bring practical, economical, and environmentally safe lighting to the developing world. While on sabbatical in Nepal, Dave visited local villages and was struck by the poor conditions that people lived in. Most of them were relying on kerosene lamps which produced little light and filled the homes with dangerous, toxic smoke. As the annual income of the Nepalese villagers averaged $200 USD, Dr. Irvine-Halliday realized that there was a great need for simple, safe, healthy, affordable and rugged lighting.

In his career, Dave had been working with LEDs for more than two decades, and spent most of 1997 and 1998 trying to make an acceptable white light from various combinations of colored indicator LEDs. He made white light, but it was simply not bright enough to be of any practical use in the developing world. Soon he discovered that Nichia, a Japanese company, had invented a bright White LED a few years earlier and Dave immediately requested samples. The ‘eureka’ moment occurred when Dave lit his first White Light Emitting Diode.

In 2001, Dave met Ken Robertson, a development professional with extensive field experience and understanding of sustainable energy and environmental issues. Ken recognized the large scale potential of Dave’s idea and felt that solid-state lighting technologies coupled with renewable energy could be a true leapfrog technology on par with the development of the cell phone or the transistor radio. Ken became LUTW’s first Executive Director and under his direction created the NGO, Light Up The World, formally established in 2002.

Together with Roy Moore, Pauline Cummings and with significant contributions from notable others that were to become the founding board, Light Up The World progressed in status from a volunteer support group to a fully incorporated charitable organization.

In 2002, Ken led the team in building LUTW’s governance, infrastructure, operations and mission-related outcomes. Ken also led the organization’s research and development efforts to derive the world’s first economically viable solid-state lighting package now known as the “light in a box”. This system provides rural communities with an ultra-efficient, reliable and robust lighting and energy system.

The combination of Dave’s vision and Ken’s development management resulted in LUTW earning international acclaim for its innovative use of appropriate technology in international development. LUTW has received several prestigious awards and has been profiled in scientific articles, journals and popular publications (eg: Rolex, Readers Digest, National Geographic magazine).

Using partnership models developed by Ken, LUTW trained, outfitted and mentored on-the ground indigenous organizations to develop solid-state lighting and renewable energy programs within their operations.

Innovation and integration were the hallmarks of this approach. Local organizations adopted LUTW’s mandate but applied many of their own locally derived methods of enterprise development, project management and micro-finance. In this way, LUTW could extend its reach in multiples while boosting the capacity of indigenous groups to undertake their own programs.

Through generous support from interested individuals, corporations, host country organizations, international foundations and industrial partners, LUTW has brought light to homes in 54 countries around the world from Afghanistan to Zambia.

Dave and his wife Jenny started a social enterprise in 2006 called Visionary Lighting and Energy India (VLE) designs. VLE develops and manufactures renewable energy systems, primarily for the developing world. As Visionary Founder of the organization, Dave continues to play an advisory role within the organization.

Our Impact – What We Do

Why Energy: Energy facilitates education, economic development and environmental and well-being.

Education: In many parts of the world, children work and do chores before and after school while there is daylight. This means that if there is a time to study, it’s usually in the evening. For hundreds of millions of students, living without electricity means that when darkness falls, their only option to study is by the dim light of a kerosene wick lamp. Quality home lighting immediately improves conditions for education in the home.

Economic Development: A lack of access to electricity means some families spend as much as one third of their monthly income on inefficient lighting solutions such as kerosene, candles and single use batteries. With renewable energy systems that cost much less than burning kerosene on a daily basis, families have more disposable income they can spend on other priorities such as school fees, health care or a small business.

Environment and well-being: Clean energy is an investment in health. The toxic by-products released by burning fuels for light present a myriad of health and environmental issues. Fuel sources such as kerosene are a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. Years of inhaling noxious gases can lead to severe respiratory illness and an open flame in the home increases the threat of fire and burns. Clean energy greatly reduces health risks.

Our Programs – How We Do It

Light Up The World has three pillars: Projects, Training and Education and Social Enterprise.

Projects: LUTW implements projects that provide sustainable energy solutions and lighting to communities without connection to the electrical power grid (off-grid areas). This means we are working to make lighting and energy access in remote communities as inexpensive and sustainable as possible: helping off-grid communities transition away from using unhealthy fuels for light. Since 1997, LUTW has been part of bringing light to homes in off-grid areas in 54 countries. Currently, the organization’s main focus is in Peru and Guatemala.

Training and Education: LUTW strives to serve as a knowledge hub related to battery-based solar PV systems, expanding the understanding of best practices to work with this technology in off-grid rural applications. The organization believes that this educative approach is the most effective way to create a sustainable, flourishing local solar market that can address global issues like energy poverty and climate change. LUTW facilitates courses ranging from a basic introductory Solar 101 seminar to a progression of technical workshops that empower students to design, install and troubleshoot battery-based PV systems.

LUTW also offers programs with academic institutions that enable students to receive classroom training and a hands-on practise before actually installing a PV system in an off-grid location in Peru and Guatemala. These customized field programs provide an incredible experience to learn about sustainable development and renewable energy, and the opportunity to leave behind a project in a school or medical clinic that has a direct and noticeable impact upon a community.

Social Enterprise: One of the ways Light Up The World provides access to lighting and electricity in some of the most remote regions of Peru is through our social enterprise. Over 800,000 households in Peru lack electricity. These families and communities live in off-grid areas, and are limited to low-quality, expensive and damaging forms of energy such as candles, disposable batteries and harmful fuels.

Light Up The World’s social enterprise works to offer these households high-quality, pay-as-you-go enabled solar energy technologies designed for off-grid homes, that provide lighting, device charging and entertainment. We also offer solar lanterns and larger, personalised systems, to ensure that we’re able to meet a wide range of needs.

Our Requests – What You Can Do

Become a monthly donor!

LUTW’s monthly donors provide stable funding for reaching the last mile, supporting local technicians and ensuring the sustainability of our work. Help LUTW empower people with light and access to energy by becoming a monthly donor.


Becoming an advocate for sustainability and equity is one of the most powerful ways to help LUTW. One person at a time, one community at a time, we can create change. We have always benefited from a dedicated network of volunteers and supporters who not only spread the word, but also host events, raise money, launch awareness campaigns, start groups or clubs dedicated to sustainability, and much more.

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Contact Info

Murray Lytle



More Info

Charity Number: #890802176RR0001

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