The Council of the European Physical Society, held in Mulhouse on 1-2 April 2016, welcomed a round-table on the theme “Physics for Development”. Several associations and organisations were invited to present their projects: Sunshine4Palestine and Liter of Light, as well as the Basic Science Programme at UNESCO, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics [ICTP] and the International Astronomical Union [IAU].
Lucie Baron, business developer at the French branch of Liter of Light, was one of the invited speakers. Below is an interview between Lucie Baron [LB] and Gina Gunaratnam [GG], communication coordinator at the European Physical Society.
GG: How was Liter of Light born? How was Liter of Light France created? What are the current projects?
LB: The Philippines is one of the countries most subjected to floods and typhoons. When there are floods, the electric grid is completely under water and people do not have access to food and health anymore! Illac Diaz, the founder of MyShelter Foundation and founder of Liter of Light wanted to find a grassroots level solution that could work with local materials, so every time there is a flood you don’t need to ship material from all over the world! Hence, Liter of Light started with just a plastic bottle, water and some bleach! This very simple solution brought light to thousands of Filipinos who were living in the dark. Afterwards, the team of Liter of Light added to it a solar panel, a battery and an LED so it could work at night! Plus, Liter of Light has also developed public lighting to light up villages. When streets are lit up, research has shown that the criminality rate drops by 70 to 80%!
During a trip to South America Olivier Lasbouygues, founder of Liter of Light France, met Camilo Herrera, founder of the Colombian branch of Liter of Light. He loved the idea and went back to France to start the French Chapter of Liter of Light with the help of Isabel Rico and Paola Sierra, two other Colombian girls.
Today we have different projects in France and in West Africa. We have installed some of our lighting systems in the refugee camp in Northern France. We had immediate positive feedback from the refugees and from the coordinators of the camp. We are now working jointly to see how we can provide our help for the rest of the camp.
We have another project in Ivory Coast. We have been working for the past six months with another organization, AD4I (Africa Investment for Development), and the mayor of Tiémélékro, a community situated at 300km north of Abidjan to install our lighting systems and share with them our open source technology. To finance this project we have launched a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo!
GG: How did you come to work for this association? What is your role in the structure?
LB: I have known about Liter of Light for quite some time. I have always loved the idea that you can solve such important issues with simple solutions! I think one of the greatest strengths of the movement is that not only we install our lighting systems but we also teach and share our technology with the locals so they can take care of all the maintenance and install new lighting systems once were are gone. Hence the local community becomes totally independent from us!
I met Olivier during the COP21 in Paris last December, and very quickly decided to work together and I joined Liter of Light’s global movement.
My role at Liter of Light France is to develop the actions of Liter of Light France by partnering up with other institutions that believe in our projects.
GG: The International Year of Light took place in 2015. How was Liter of Light involved in this UNESCO year?
LB: Liter of Light was invited to take part in the opening speech of the International Year of Light in January 2015. They have supported us all year long by promoting our organization through a lot of different activities like the Midnight Run in Paris.
GG: Would you have a message for institutions that could help Liter of Light?
LB: We believe institutions working with organisations like Liter of Light create a win-win situation. We can definitely benefit from their expertise in a lot of domains, which will help us grow. We also believe that it is always important for institutions to be working hand in hand with organisations like ours to explore innovative ecosystems so they can boost their capacity to innovate and to transform themselves in this day and age where everything is constantly changing and grassroots level innovations, like Liter of Lite, are mushrooming everywhere in the world.
GG: Would you have a message for scientists who would like to be committed in an initiative such as Liter of Light?
LB: A scientist once told me why he thought Liter of Light is such a great organisation. He told me that as a physicist he and his team were once planning a very important project in a Sub-Saharan African country. They had this big idea from their offices in Europe but once they arrived on the ground they realised it was impossible for them to implement it because of so many factors they did not think of. By partnering up with us, scientists can see how grassroots level solutions are being implemented on the ground, and how you can achieve an impact with what you have.