Filipino entrepreneur provides liters of light

Illac Diaz, founder of MyShelter Foundation and Liter of Light, is one of the winners of the first-ever Asia Game Changer awards given by Asia Society.

Diaz, who promoted his Liter of Light project in Jersey City two years ago, in partnership with the Philippine-American Friendship Committee Inc., is being honored “for bringing light to those in the Philippines who lack electricity and have done so in brilliant and sustainable fashion.”

Diaz joins 12 other individuals and institutions representing “an extraordinary range of geography and achievement” who share a “common vision, passion and proven impact, wherever and however they happen to be changing the world,” Asia Society said in a statement. The awardees are from China, India, Japan, Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

The 2014 Class of Asia Game Changers [was] honored on October 16 at a Game Changer Awards Dinner at the United Nations Dining Room and Terrace.

Josette Sheeran, president and CEO of Asia Society said that the selection process began early this year, “inviting suggestions from Asia Society’s global network.”  She reported that more than 130 individuals and institutions were nominated.  Asia Society took six months to decide before announcing the awardees on September 16.

Bottle of light

Diaz is a social entrepreneur whose concept is to combine sunshine, water and chlorine inside a used one-liter bottle to bring light to disadvantaged Filipinos while recycling tons of plastic waste that would otherwise end up in already overburdened landfills.

His eco-friendly bottle lamp called “Liter of Light” comes from scavenged empty bottles. It is suspended from ceilings where during daylight hours the water inside the bottle refracts natural sunlight to produce a light equivalent to a 55-watt solar bulb, which then extends for another 10 hours at night.

The light source was designed with students from MIT and is rooted on the principle of Appropriate Technologies, a concept that provides simple and replicable technologies to address basic needs in developing communities.

Illac Diaz

The 1-Liter of Light has brightened 140,000 homes in the Philippines alone since 2011 and this simple technology is now replicated in 15 other countries including India, Bangladesh and Nepal.  Diaz’s goal is to reach one million lights installed worldwide by 2015.

The program is inspired by many innovations from around the world. Many cultures have used glass bottles to allow lighting through the roof.  Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian mechanic, began pioneering methods of experimenting with plastic bottles.  However, modifications have been made to the Philippine model.

MyShelter Foundation hopes that “others take their work and continue to grow the concept, spreading it rapidly to empower and lighten the lives of people.”

Ateneo alumnus

He is a son of Ramon Diaz, an accomplished visual artist and brother of Gloria Diaz, the first Filipina Miss Universe.  Diaz earned his bachelor’s degree in management economics at the Ateneo de Manila University and obtained a master’s in entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

Later, he left the Philippines to take up urban studies and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston  In 2008, he took his master’s of political administration at Harvard University.

Diaz is the youngest Asian Institute of Management alumnus to receive an Honors and Prestige Award.  In 2004, he received a three-in-a-row award: Everyday Hero Special Award from the Reader’s Digest Asia, an Entrepreneur Award from the 1st Johnny Walker Social Award and a runner-up in New York’s Next Big Idea International Design Competition.

In 2005, he was a recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Social Entrepreneurship given by JCI Philippines. He also received a citation from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Geneva as one of the “Young Global Leaders of 2008.”

The First Asia Game Changer Awardees

  • Game Changer of the Year Jack Ma, Chairman, Alibaba Group, for history-making business and philanthropy in China
  • Shigeru Ban, founder, Shigeru Ban Architects, for finding beauty and hope in the landscapes of disaster
  • Madhav Chavan, co-founder and CEO, Pratham Charitable Trust, for bringing the gift of literacy to millions of Indians
  • Illac Diaz, founder, MyShelter Foundation and Liter of Light, for bringing literally, to so many lives
  • Fashion Girls for Humanity, for demonstrating that “looking good” and “doing good” can be one and the same
  • Kuntoro Mangkasubroto, Minister and Senior Advisor to the Indonesian President, for providing a brilliant blueprint for responding to disaster
  • Saad Mohseni, chairman, MOBY Group, for bringing news, information and entertainment to a barren  landscape
  • Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO, Acumen, for changing the way the world tackles poverty
  • Sharmeen  Obaid-Chinoy, founder, SOC Films and President, The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, for eye-opening films that give voice to the voiceless
  • Playing for Change, For using the power of music to spread a global message of hope
  • Pawan Sinha,Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, For a truly visionary approach to treating India’s blind
  • Malala Yousafzai, Education activist, For continuing to dream and fight for girls the world over, after living a nightmare
  • Zhang Minxuan, Professor, Shanghai Normal University, For leveling the playing field by providing quality education to millions in China

Editor’s Note:  This article first appeared on the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on September 22, 2014.

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