Ami Valdemoro – from World Habitat Award winner 2014 Liter of Light – blogs about the 100-day ‘Voyage of Light’ across the world to show poor communities an extraordinary solar light solution.
If you had 100 days to travel around the world, what would you do?
This was a question that four intrepid travellers asked themselves before deciding to embark on a voyage around the world to teach and train off-grid communities how to build their own renewable, sustainable lighting solutions with Liter of Light.
The ‘Voyage of Light’ is the first of its kind, done in a unique partnership between Liter of Light, 2014 World Habitat Award winner, and Peace Boat, a Japan-based NGO that works to promote peace, human rights, and sustainable development as an official partner of the United Nations SDG Action Campaign.
The Voyage kicked off with an emotional send-off in Yokohama, Japan on December 26, and will spend 100 days visiting 19 ports in 19 countries around the Global South.
At each of the ports where the Voyage of Light will dock, the team, along with volunteers from the ship, will build and install Liter of Light’s simple solar lighting technologies in communities that do not have access to affordable energy. So far, the team has shared the gift of light in Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, and South Africa, through activities with local non-profit partner organisations like SEED, Southern Cross, and SOS Children’s Village in Ehoala; and Ikhaya le Langa in Cape Town.
As I write this, the Peace Boat finds itself in southern Africa and is preparing to cross the Atlantic, reaching Brazil on February 9. From Brazil, the Voyage will continue to the “end of the world” in Ushuaia, Argentina; to Valparaiso, Chile; and onward to islands and island nations of Rapa Nui, Tahiti, and Samoa.
Our Voyage of Light team set off with a mission: to show how grassroots solutions, put in the hands of thousands of volunteers and community members, can make a big difference in fighting energy poverty. Even though big strides have been made around the world, there are still over one billion people who lack access to affordable, sustainable energy.
When we started this Voyage, we knew that we wanted to travel with a purpose. What we didn’t realize is that we are helping folks with more than just light. We are empowering others with agency to discover ways that they can improve their living conditions, using materials that they can find in their own community.
Our team brought minimal supplies onboard the ship, and we’ve been able to source parts and materials to build solar streetlights, house lights with mobile charging systems, and small study lanterns in the communities where we dock.
Instead of relying on imported or expensive solutions, we are helping to seed micro-businesses where entrepreneurs can build enterprises around local solutions, for example, through renting out a mobile charging system or street light. This focus on locally built solutions is especially important in the communities that we are visiting, since many of them are far from urban centres or in islands, where the logistics of moving things gets more complicated.
We’ve also sparked joy in our volunteers to use their skills to contribute in new ways. When we started, we were just four travellers from Liter of Light. Now, 30 days into the voyage, we have an army of hundreds of advocates who have joined us in our mission. In fact, some of our volunteers have extensive engineering backgrounds, and they have used this experience to train others. Their enthusiasm is infectious!
It is this spirit of adventure and purpose that has allowed us to grow from a local project in the Philippines to over 30 countries around the world – and hopefully more after this Voyage! We love that we’ve been able to inspire other people to do their part to tackle big challenges in their community, and we are excited to see where the rest of the voyage takes us!
If you’d like to follow us as we enter the next 70 days of the Voyage, you can check out our Instagram page (@literoflight) or engage with us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/aliteroflight). We are cooking up some innovative ways for you to get involved even from your own home – stay tuned!
Ami Valdemoro serves as Board Director and Chief Strategy Officer for Liter of Light.
* “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck
Image: Olivier Sabatier