Thursday, May 8, 2008

Making a Difference in Africa

The efforts of a retired Canadian business executive are improving the lives of impoverished African who are deaf. Working from a small town in Botswana, Howard Weinstein came up with a cheap hearing aid powered by rechargeable solar batteries. The SolarAid costs less than $100 and the rechargeable batteries are a dollar apiece and last two to three years. More than 20,000 people in 30 countries are using it. With funding from the Ashoka Foundation out of Washington, DC and the Oregon-based Lemelson Foundation, Weinstein is working on an even better unit with the help of engineers from Brazil’s University of São Paulo.
Weinstein had become rich from his valves and faucet company but his world fell apart when his 10-year-old daughter suddenly died. He eventually went bankrupt and left Montreal for Africa when he heard about the opportunity through World University Service of Canada .
Weinstein's vision goes beyond Africa. He’s working to set up similar operations in Latin America, the Middle East, China and India. His plan is to have 1000 deaf people employed in the next 5 years.