Dark nights no more: Solar bulbs light up far-flung homes

More than 50 communities in the country no longer have to depend on kerosene lamps for light, thanks to a national movement sparked by three high school students.

Since it began in 2010, youth-led organization One Million Lights Philippines has so far distributed about 4,900 solar-powered lights nationwide.

“We've still got a long way to go before we hit our goal of one million, but, thanks to your support, we're on the right path,” the group said in its Facebook page June 3.

One Million Lights Philippines aims to reach out to an estimated 15 million Filipinos who have no access to electricity and whose homes are lit by kerosene lamps.

The organization started with students who, inspired by the international One Million Lights movement, distributed 250 solar-powered lamps in Virac, Catanduanes in 2011.

The group has since worked with sponsors and partners, among them global research firm Nielsen, which donated 180 solar-powered lights to celebrate its 90th anniversary.

The lamps were distributed to households in barangays Calawis and Appia in Antipolo, Rizal on June 13, which Nielsen marks as Global Impact Day.

“We’re extremely thankful for this collaboration with Nielsen Philippines,” said Lance Katigbak, One Million Lights Philippines’s Head of Publicity.

“The 180 lights that they donated have lit up over a thousand lives, so we hope that this collaboration continues to grow from here,” he added.

One Million Lights believes that solar-powered lights empower Filipinos in poor, far-flung areas by increasing opportunities as well as reducing costs and health risks.

The group has earlier noted that improved lighting also leads to better worker productivity in rural areas, since they now have the choice to extend their work hours.

The global One Million Lights Movement meanwhile said poor families around the world spend up to half of their income on kerosene, although it provides inadequate illumination.

“Due to transportation costs, kerosene is most expensive in the rural areas that need it most, and women to walk long distances to purchase the fuel,” the group said.

The use of kerosene lamps is also a major cause of burns and respiratory illnesses and is responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million people each year.

“With kerosene smoke inhalation equivalent to 4 packs of cigarettes per day, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and cancer are common in rural households,” One Million Lights said.

For its efforts, the Philippine One Million Lights movement has been given the Spirit of EDSA Award and has been named as one of the country’s Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations.

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