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Project «2000 bottles for South Asia»

Report by Nicolas Koslowski

 

"When flying long distance in an airplane, sitting a neutral cabine, barely noticing how the continents drift along below, the aircraft’s plug door becomes like a gateway to a new world. We were suddenly standing in the middle of Mumbai, a metropolitan area housing more than double of the entire Swiss population. We heard ear-splitting honking of car horns, sweated at 40°C, and didn’t understand a single word spoken around us. The classical method would have been to be picked up by a shuttle, check in at a hotel, and then the next day explore the city’s main tourist attractions in flip flops. But our visit had nothing to do with that. At the airport, we were picked up by friends whom we had convinced of our project via the internet, and accommodated at their relatives’ place. Our week’s programme in Mumbai was pre-planned and we were motivated to achieve as much as possible for Liter of Light. Every morning, we made presentations and workshops at schools and universities. We met highly disciplined and interested pupils and students. Thanks to social programmes initiated by the Indian government, many students who were themselves inhabitants of slums were present in the lecture halls. We showed photographs, reported experiences, answered questions and demonstrated the effect of a show box. The idea was well received.

 

Thus we saw many of our new contacts again during the next days as they helped us install bottles in the slums. Our friends from Liter of Light Mumbai and Jal Jyoti, a charitable student association, were very helpful. The fact that we were suggesting people to drill a hole in their roof was not very easy to sell. Nonetheless, we found many courageous slum dwellers who were ready to allow us to install the first bottle in their home. The inhabitants of these homes supported us very actively. Often we only stood next to them, explaining the exact steps and watching them do the installations. Most of them wanted to drill the hole into their roof themselves. After a successful installation, we were able to enjoy the effect. Queues and queues of people gathered in front of the houses to see what had changed. Each installation resulted in a happy family. That was sufficient payment for us. We soon had waiting lists and reached the limits of our own capacities. One could say that through our pilot installations the people literally “saw the light”, in the true sense of the word. We are confident that following our efforts, many solar bottles will be installed. After sunset, we said goodbye and drove home, changed our sticky work clothes and drove to a dinner with our supporters (the film maker Kamal, the Swiss Consul Mr. Nievergelt). The next day was exactly the same. Each illumined hut gave us further motivation. This week we have experienced a lot. We were able to acquaint ourselves with Indian culture at close range by having contact with people whom most tourists will never meet. We lived together with Indians and were able to experience their indescribable readiness to help. Our trip to India was not only a full success for Liter of Light, but for us as humans.”

Eight members of the student initiative “Liter of Light Switzerland” travelled to India and Bangladesh for two weeks. Their goal was to promote the idea of light from a solar bottle and thus make an ecological and cost-effective source of light available to disadvantaged households.

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During two weeks, the Swiss team installed a total of 32 solar bottles in the slums of Hyderabad, Mumbai and Dhaka. Their main was to establish new Liter of Light Organisations locally. In order to win members, we organised numerous workshops at various universities and met many interested students who wish to make long-term commitments to the idea. Thus, around 50 volunteers helped us with our installations. As a Swiss group, we were also able to provide local organisations with local contacts. In Bangladesh, for example, we spoke with the Swiss Ambassador and were also able to enthuse the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Association for International Cooperation, with our idea. In addition to this, we were able to win over a number of local social entrepreneurs, whom we shall initially support with money from the fund.

 

The project made a significant contribution towards connecting the various Liter of Light movements around the globe. In Hyderabad, the team met Illiac Diaz, who started the largest national Liter of Light movement in the Philippines. A Spanish member was also present and will soon promote the idea in Mexico.

 

Due to our numerous activities, nationwide media published reports on the idea of the solar bottle. For example, India’s largest newspaper The Times of India published an article, and in Bangladesh even a TV report was made. In Mumbai and Hyderabad, a professional film team avidly collected video material, which is now being worked into a short movie.

 

Overall, we were able to acquaint numerous families in disadvantaged regions with the idea of the solar bottle. Thus, we were able to lay the foundation block for the long-term development of the idea.

 

Many thanks to our friends and supporters who made this possible!