Lighting up lives with a discarded bottle and a strong resolve
Let there be light; and let it be cheap. According to the Bible, God created light on the first day of creation. This reinforces the importance of light in our life. At SocialStory we have profiled entrepreneurs enabling things like clothing, sanitation, water, healthcare and education, but Tripti Aggarwal and Pankaj Dixit are lighting up the lives of people in and around the country with nothing but a discarded bottle and a strong resolve.
Tripti was born and brought up in Haryana and has been associated with social organisations for a long time. When she is not busy lightening up the lives of people around her, she works for Tech Mahindra as an ERP consultant. Pankaj Dixit is a retired banker and life coach, who has been equally committed to the cause of helping underprivileged people.
The two of them started AROHA, a non-profit in 2013. AROHA is the parent organisation and the official partner of MyShelter Foundation (through which the international Liter of Light movement started) under which they started the Liter of Light initiative. Liter of Light is an international movement started by Illac Diaz in 2011. Alfredo Moser from Brazil, a Brazilian mechanic invented the concept of daylight bottle bulb and then was picked up upon as a movement by Illac Diaz.
The concept seems very simple on the outset but when it comes to implementation, it becomes really difficult talking to people and getting them to accept the solutions. An empty transparent bottle is filled with distilled water; it is then glued to acrylic sheets put up on the roof where it then starts refracting sunlight, illuminating the entire place. The obvious question which comes to mind is t, why would people need light during the daytime. But one visit to the slum areas proves the fact that light is a costly business here.
Tripti and Pankaj travelled to different parts of the city and did their first installation on Pongal in 2014 in a school in Banshankari. Tripti talks about her moment of truth. She says, “I once went back to the house where we had installed the light sometime back and asked what difference it had made in their life, the lady at the house said, it helped them connect. Earlier there was no light in the home, so kids used to play outside; there was no light in the kitchen so she had to cook in the open. Now the family spends time together.”
The impact of their work further dawned on them when they saw that there was no light in schools, no indoor lighting or even outdoor lighting, the households were non-productive and the kids could not study. Having an access to inexpensive lighting solutions changed all this.
However, they have faced some lows as well. Pankaj reminisces how he saw people keeping their tube lights on during the day, despite having Liter of Light solutions installed. “I was amazed that it hadn’t made a difference to their attitude and the root cause for which we were doing this still existed. We put the solution on hold for quite some time.”
Recently they interacted with their counterparts from Pakistan and a good exchange of knowledge took place where they learnt how to build inexpensive night lights. They recently installed the first pilot of nightlight in two houses in a rag pickers’ slum near Koramangala while 200 houses are still under dark in that area. Most people were cost-conscious and were asking what it would cost as they were cheated earlier by contractors and builder who sold them cheap solar lights which didn’t work for long. With the pilot installation in ragpickers colony, children now play inside the colony under the lights. They were at huge risk before as they used to play out on the traffic-laden streets. The households are happier as they won’t have to use kerosene lamps anymore which release toxic fumes
Tripti says, “Our jobs takes care of our living and Liter of Light takes care of our life”
The team also travelled to Vishakhapatnam to do the preliminary site assessment of tribal hamlets and this was when they figured out that it is needed in their dwellings more than that in Bangalore. Pankaj observed that in most of the tribal hamlets there even a cyclone did not have much of an impact because there was nothing to impact in the first place. Ironically, as per government statistics most of Andhra Pradesh is 100 percent electrified.
At present, they are also working on a solar wind hybrid model for night-lights and planning to raise funds for the same. Talking about future vision, Pankaj says AROHA’s vision is to keep up the R&D to bring the costs of the night light down while lighting up every underprivileged household in the country. Their aim is to give a solution to the community which is easily maintainable by them, using locally available resources. Daylight is already such solution. The nightlight is developed keeping all of it in mind
Currently, the entire campaign is funded out of their pockets and they need more funds to carry out further lined up projects and increase the impact and reach out to more underprivileged people. Let us support them in their spirit of greater good.