Because of a solar lamp, one man was able to help his entire family.
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Intrepid Travel

Amresh runs a small shop in Bangalore, India. A few years ago, he had a pretty big problem.

Amresh used kerosene lights to light his shop in the evening, hoping to catch some of the foot traffic from people heading home from work after dark. But the lights weren’t enough to help people see what his products were. His business struggled.

All photos are of an urban slum in India and the people who live there. Taken by Pravin Tamang, used with permission.


When he heard that a company called Pollinate Energy was selling solar lamps, Amresh jumped at the opportunity to purchase one.

The solar lamp changed his life.

His new lighting meant that he could keep the shop open later and attract customers who were on their way home. Because of the light, his shop also became a neighborhood gathering spot, where people would socialize and catch up after a day of work.

Within two months, his income had doubled. And just a few months after that, Amresh had saved enough money to move his entire family out of the slum.

According to Pollinate Energy COO Alexie Seller, Amresh’s story is just one of many.

Pollinate is a small company focused on distributing much-needed products to people who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise. It was founded in 2013 with the goal of tackling energy poverty — no small undertaking. Their efforts have been supported by The Intrepid Foundation since 2015, which matches all donations made to Pollinate dollar-for-dollar.

Because while those of us in the western world tend to take access to things like light at night for granted, around 1.2 billion people around the world do not have access to electricity.

“We have the privilege of living in a country where there is a lot of infrastructure, which is paid for by the government. … our electricity is actually really low-cost. So, what happens for a family that’s living with no access to electricity is that they have to pay out of their own pockets for every single energy expense that they have,” Seller explains. “And [in India] it means that they are spending 5-10% of their earnings on kerosene, which is not even really a useful light.”

Fumes from a kerosene lamp, captured on camera.

Kerosene is also hazardous — it causes indoor air pollution, which is the second-leading cause of death for women and young children.

With this in mind, Pollinate set out to offer sustainable solutions to everyday energy problems. And their approach is pretty unique.

When first preparing to distribute solar lamps, Pollinate sent representatives known as “Pollinators” into the slums where they met families and spoke to them about their needs, their finances, and their willingness to pay for certain products. Pollinate uses the information gathered to help select the products it will distribute and to determine the price point for those products.

Why go to all of that trouble? Seller explains that Pollinate is determined to make lasting change and that the only way to do that is to involve the people who it is trying to serve.

Pollinate also does its research to make sure it's not asking anyone to pay more than they can afford. Pollinate offers five-eight-week repayment plans based on a family’s weekly budget so they can get the products they need without the pressure to have the money immediately.

Though their products are intentionally low-cost, Pollinate makes a point of selling, rather than donating, them.

“By selling a product, you give someone the opportunity to refuse it,” wrote Nora Malm, a former fellow at Pollinate, in a blog post.

She continued, “When we approach the community members as customers, their agency is immediately recognised. But when we are feeling sorry for someone, their agency is removed, and we are prone to think that somehow we know better.”

Pollinate doesn’t want to assume it knows what the people it's serving need. It wants to work with them to determine appropriate solutions and give them the chance to invest in their future.

“We’re actually giving our customers the choice to make this improvement in their lives and to buy what it is that is most useful for them. … Because we charge for the product and we work with the customers, especially when we’re rolling out something different, we pick up very quickly what is not working,” Seller says. “And that is exactly what social business is proven to do that charitable giving has not.”

Pollinate currently offers eight products to around 200,000 households across four cities in India.

And it wants to help as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Pollinate has plans to expand into 20 cities within the next five years.

To do this, it keeps recruiting Pollinators and has even started a fellowship program, allowing about 300 fellows from around the world to contribute to the program on the ground floor. The Intrepid Foundation is helping Pollinate make these massive goals a reality through the Travel for Good campaign, which will see over $25,000 donated to support Pollinate's fight against energy poverty in India.

Improving the quality of life for people around the world is a monumental task. It takes teamwork and enthusiasm, and at times, it can feel overwhelming.

But, “until you get started, you’re not going to really understand deeply enough what is going on and how you can actually make a difference,” Seller explains. She encourages everyone to take a leap of faith and dive right in to create positive change.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.