Last Saturday I had the opportunity to shoot a project that is helping to change lives in an extraordinary way. MyShelter Foundation has always been at the forefront of creative and groundbreaking technologies and this is their latest venture called a Liter of Light (Isang Litrong Liwanag). The concept is simple. By using plastic bottles and filling them with water you create a prism that captures sunlight and disperses it into a home. Before I heard about this project I had no idea that not having access to light during daylight hours was such a large scale problem. Before going into this community it was hard for me to visualize homes having dark rooms when it was so bright and hot outside. I thought all people had to do is open a window or door and let some light in. However, when we arrived into this community I immediately began to see the completely dark toilets, rooms and alleys that did not have a single source of light. Using a simple concept like the bottle light suddenly seemed ingenious.
There is a continuous problem of access to light and legal electricity by a number of homes throughout the Philippines, whether they are located in urban or rural areas. Small, crowded communities (shanty areas) are often covered in darkness even during the day because of the lack of ambient light. Using the electricity for 24 hours a day raises the households expenses by around 40%. For these households, this percentage makes a significant difference to their expenses where their income ranges from minimum wage to less than a dollar a day. While opting for candles as their light source saves them from the unnecessary expense, it also endangers them and creates a fire hazard for the entire community. Latest statistics (2005) show that out of 10,728 fire incidences in the country, 5,105 of them were caused either by an open flame or through problematic electrical connections. (Source)
Besides the obvious benefits of having light in dark places, providing these essential basic needs within a community often empowers individuals. If a child has another place in their home to read a book, perhaps the child will stay more motivated to learn and go to school longer. If a person doesn’t have to use the bathroom in complete darkness perhaps they will feel better about themselves and contribute more to their community. I’m sure we can think of numerous ways where being able to see in dark places can help uplift and improve the quality of life. For around 50 pesos (USD $1.10) per light I can’t think of a better and more simple way to do this.