INC Lights Up the Lives of Typhoon Victims

by Patty Ryan posted on 14 February 2014


Have you ever wondered where money to a charity really goes ? Does it really reach recipients in need ?

Kristina Stehling travelled recently to the Philippines to see where an INC donation to a non profit organization helped to light up the lives of thousands of victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

 When Typhoon Haiyan slashed through the Philippines on November 8,2013, my first reaction was the thought of millions of poor people from my country once again struggling through life’s cruelties. No water, no lights, no food, no livelihood. How can a person thousands of miles away help 11 million people trapped in the worst recorded storm to hit land in centuries ? I looked at different non profit organizations working in the Philippines (there are approximately 170 of them helping out from all over the world today) and I tried to see who had the best services to offer and the capacity to distribute  goods and services to the victims directly.

 I came across an interesting non profit group called Kopernik through an INC member, Sarika Hussey. Kopernik was founded by two very inspiring personalities, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska. Toshi was a classmate of Sarika’s in graduate school and they both went to work for the United Nations. Sarika often told me that she and Toshi  had aspirations on how to make the world a better place especially for the less fortunate.

 Toshi and Ewa worked for the United Nations for 10 years before branching out on their own to form Kopernik. Contrary to what some may believe about the United Nations, it is a highly bureaucratic organization and I believe Toshi and Ewa wanted to branch away from the UN to form a much more flexible non profit group that would reach the last mile—which means actually delivering affordable technologies to victims of natural disasters, famine and wars whilst sparing having to deal with bureaucrats and politicians.

 In the Philippines, I had heard through friends based there that solar lanterns distributed by Kopernik were very popular and that their program actually delivered the product bought through crowd funding efforts directly to victims of natural disasters. Thousands of these lanterns would be needed in places like Leyte, Samar, and Cebu, the  worst hit provinces during the typhoon. Through a Christmas lunch I hosted, we were able to raise enough money to give to Kopernik who in turn purchased solar lanterns on INC’s behalf and distributed the lanterns to 660 recipients. That translates to helping 600 families and in the Philippines that actually means the INC helped at least  3,000 people have access to light which is required for cooking meals in the evening hours.

 What impressed me about Kopernik is how simple technologies like solar lanterns, water filter systems or a biomass stove that offers smoke free fuel friendly cooking, can be made accessible to people in far flung rural areas in Asia at such low cost. I, perhaps like many, often wonder if donations to charities actually get to those they are intended to. With organizations like Kopernik, I saw for myself the lanterns that our club played a small role in acquiring for the victims through our donation. They reached the victims and no less than Toshi Nakamura, the founder of Kopernik, thanked me (and the INC members) for our contribution. How many non profits have a leader take the time to write a thank you note for a donation ???

 December 9, 2013

 Dear Kristina,

 I’m writing to personally thank you for your very generous donation to our Philippines Typhoon Emergency Response.

 Thanks to your fundraiser, we can now deliver solar lights with mobile charge and bring sustainable lighting and a communications channel back to the typhoon-devastated area.

 With your contribution, we are now able to send 660 solar lights in total.

 We look forward to keeping in touch with you and sharing the impact of this project through email updates, photos and reports from the field, exploring how the solar lights are received by people in the typhoon-affected areas.

 Thanks again, we really appreciate your support.

Solar Lanterns from Kopernik being distributed to victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Regards, Toshi Nakamura

Co-founder & CEO






If you are interested in continuing to donate to Kopernik’s efforts in the Philippines or in any of their other projects in Asia, just log on to their website ( to see  technologies they are promoting to improve the lives of the less fortunate in the world.