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UCOP Unite to Light campaign ignites, thanks to one woman

If you followed last week’s Link story about UCOP’s Suzanne Cross, she has upped the ante on her campaign to purchase hundreds of tiny solar lights for South African schoolchildren who burn kerosene or candles at night to do their homework.

UC Santa Barbara engineer John Bowers created the light for the world’s 1.5 billion people without electricity. After learning about it, Cross initiated a drive at UCOP to purchase and send 200 of the lights to the Nkomo Primary School, with which she has been connected since 2002. Cross is a charitable asset administrator in UCOP’s CFO Division.

The idea is buy one, give one: You purchase two lights for $20, one for you, and the second one to donate to the kids. Cross will be selling the lights and taking donations at the July 12 first Friday breakfast, 8 to 9 a.m. in 605 Kaiser Building.

Thanks to an enthusiastic response at UCOP, a successful Franklin Friday breakfast despite the July 4 holiday weekend — and an anonymous UC donor who is offering to match her $2,000 donation ­— she has upped her goal to 850 lights for both Nkomo and several other schools in the area.

In the Mnqobokazi community of Zululand, South Africa, where Nkomo Primary School is located, there are 23 primary schools and seven high schools with a total student enrollment of 14,286. Most of these children and many of their teachers have no electricity and must do their schoolwork by lighting candles, firewood or kerosene.

Cross has raised $1,430 so far, and you can help her reach her goal. Get involved in any of the following ways:

  • Purchase lights or make donations directly at Unite To Light. Go to “Donate” or “Order” in the navigation bar and select “Mnqobokazi Community, South Africa” under “Donation Recipient.”
  • Contact Cross at to make a donation or a purchase. Checks, payable to Unite to Light, are preferred. (Direct donations are tax-deductible and $20 light purchases are 50 percent tax deductible.)
  • Find out more about Nkomo Primary School through Under Four Trees, a documentary about the school Cross is working on and hopes to release later this year.
  • Learn more about Cross and her partner, John Simpson, on their Facebook page.

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