LuminAID (Credit: Flickr/Rob Pegoraro)


When a natural disaster strikes, such as the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that caused widespread destruction in Nepal, one of the first things to go is electricity. Without electricity, there isn’t light, which can help people travel at night, find people who are missing, and perform medical procedures in any time of the day. The next best option–kerosene lamps– are dangerous and toxic.

That’s why a University of Chicago Booth and a Columbia University grad student created LuminAID— inflatable, solar-powered, waterproof, floatable bags of light that can shine up to 16 hours on one charge. LuminAID has a program called Get Light, Give Light in which customers can buy a LuminAID for themselves while donating one to an organization helping people in need–for just $30. On Monday, LuminAID added the Nepali Children’s Education Project to their list of partner organizations, an NGO they previously worked with to provide students lights for nighttime studying.

LuminAID told Chicago Inno over email their goal is to get at least 500 lights distributed this week. In addition to the Get Light, Give Light option, customers can donate a light for $10.

“We are greatly saddened by the devastation in Nepal, but optimistic that the NCEP team will be able to bring our lights to those in need after this disaster,” the team added in a blog post.

LuminAID was featured on Shark Tank, and won both the Social New Ventures Challenge hosted by UChicago and a 2013 Clean Energy Challenge grant.

Saturday’s earthquake, which centered around the country’s capital Kathmandu, has claimed over 4,000 deaths thus far.

In addition to LuminAID, the following Chicago-area organizations are sending aid to victims:

The Nepali American Center (they are also accepting donations of medicines, canned foods, tents, water filters, and other items at: Cumin Restaurant (1414 N Milwaukee Ave.), Curry Hut (410 Sheridan Rd, Highwood, IL), Himalayan Restaurant (8265 W Golf Rd, Niles, IL) and Mount Everest Restaurant (630 Church St, Evanston, IL).

Chicagoland Nepali Friendship Society

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management GoFundMe

Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

Lutheran Disaster Relief

GiveForward (curated fundraising page)

United Airlines (who is giving free miles to anyone who donates to their partner organizations)

National and international organizations providing relief include:

Catholic Relief Services



Red Cross

PayPal (hosting a range of organizations through donation page)

Image credit: Flickr/Rob Pegoraro