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Posts from the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Bringing light into some of the poorest parts of the Philippines

They call him “Solar Demi”. The man known in their community as the god-send who is illuminating their homes. Demi is a volunteer who is a part of the Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Litre of Light) project.

The latest brainchild of Illac Diaz of the MyShelter Foundation, Isang Litrong Liwanag is a project that aims to bring sustainable lighting to some of the poorest communities in the Philippines. The concept, designed and developed by students at MIT, is surprisingly simple. Filtered water and a few tablespoons of bleach are placed into a 1L plastic bottle and a metal sheet is affixed around the bottle with a sealant to seal the seams. A hole the circumference of the bottle is then punched into the metal sheet roof of the home, and the bottle is placed through the hole and attached to the roof. The result: a previously dark home that relied heavily on electrical connections, that can be faulty and present fire hazards, can now be illuminated with free, and clean solar light during the day.

Each eco-friendly Solar Bottle Bulb transmits the equivalent of approximately 55-60 watts of light from the sun, and can last up to 5 years. The bleach in the filtered water prevent algae from building up in the bottle, extending the life of the simple bulb.

As of this year, over 10,000 bottle lights have been installed in underprivileged homes across Manila and the nearby province of Laguna. Isang Litrong Liwanag and MyShelter Foundation aim to install bulbs to light up a million homes by 2012.

To make a donation, or to volunteer for this amazing cause, go to Isang Litron Liwanag.

reCAPTCHA: tiny acts towards big social impact

If you’ve ever purchased or subscribed to something online, chances are you’ve come across CAPTCHA: A series of graphically distorted letters that you need to type into a box to prove you’re not a spambot. A necessary nuisance, but a nuisance nonetheless.

Enter Luis von Ahn, one of the minds behind the original CAPTCHA. After finding out that approximately 200 million CAPTCHAs are typed in every day, with about 10 seconds used per entry, meaning humanity as a whole is generally wasting 500 thousand hours every day on filling out CAPTCHAs, Luis decided to do something about it. He created reCAPTCHA.

The significance of reCAPTCHA is that leverages the authentication process people are already completing to help digitize books one word at a time. Many online vendors and companies have switched to using reCAPTCHA in the last few years, so much so that as many as 100 million words are being digitized daily by you and I. How’s that for a tiny contribution towards big social impact? Pretty impressive.

But Luis himself speaks to all of this far better than I. Watch his TEDx talk on reCAPTCHA in the video below.

Girl Effect


The Girl Effect was created by The Nike Foundation in collaboration with partners like the United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. Since then, there have been a number of initiatives and organizations that have taken on the movement with their own campaigns that focus on girls in combating poverty and illiteracy.

You might ask – why the focus on girls? Here’s a short explanation by USAID that I think says it best.

Assume this initial condition: A 13 year old girl stands at a crossroads with two choices before her: school or child marriage. The problem is it’s not usually a choice.Married, she is more likely to die from childbirth at an early age; she is more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases; she is more prone to become a victim of partner violence; she never receives an education; and she is unable to contribute to society in a way that has a larger social impact and helps to push the human race forward.With an education she marries later in life—to someone she chooses. She decides the timing of her children and is in a position to make decisions about her own health. She invests money in her children’s health and education, and is able to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Other people recognize her value and contributions, and begin to understand that all girls have value.Multiply that scenario by the 600 million girls in the developing world and it’s easy to comprehend how a small change in an initial condition is capable of determining the course of humanity. That is powerful.The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart.

That’s a powerful message – and the brilliant design and execution of this campaign make the message even more powerful.

For more information about the girl effect and/or to contribute to the cause, go to

Table for Two

I said “see you soon” to a dear friend today. The prospect of the future feels full of hope and potential, but I can’t help but also feel the pull of a past flooded with good memory and friendship.

I thought this picture was the perfect representation of both.

The small things

Plastic shadows. A plastic bag on the counter. (Photo credits: Vivian Chan)

I’ve been thinking about the concept of balance lately and living a full life. Most of us are all too familiar with the old adage to remember to “stop and smell the flowers” once in a while. It may be cliché and obvious, but I really do believe it’s as simple as that. Finding balance and happiness is in the moment, and yet, it’s a life-long commitment of collecting strings of those moments. Amazing things happen when we take the time to observe, notice, and fully experience the smaller things in life, throughout our lives – and it does require a commitment.

It’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in the harried pace of relationships, work, family, and other commitments. Worse still, we fall prey to a later-when mentality, where we think we will do something we want or find happiness later, when _______. Later, when I buy a house, land a job, get a raise, find a boyfriend or girlfriend, buy those shoes, then, I will (fill in the blank). But why not now?

The best part is that living in the moment doesn’t have to involve some major life altering event. It can be so simple and done right where you are, where ever you are.

For myself, I’ve been trying to capture those moments in photography. Below are a few of my moments. Read more

To be alone…

I loved this short poem and film. It’s a beautiful perspective on being alone and discovering a certain comfort in being able to be alone.

It gets better

On October 12th, City Councilman Joel Burns, addressed the Fort Worth City Council, and any parents and youth that might be watching the broadcast with a message that was close to his heart: to the young people who may be facing bullying because they are different, hang in there, “it gets better”.

He began his address with a review of the recent spate of suicides that have been a result of bullying of teens who were perceived to be gay or lesbian. One by one, the Council heard the stories young teens who have taken their lives recently because of bullying: Asher Brown (13 years old), Billy Lucas (15 years old), Justin Aaberg (15 years old), Seth Walsh (13 years old), and finally Zach Harrington (19 years old), who hung himself after attending a City Council meeting. Already, the passionate words of the Councilman were moving to hear in highlighting the important issue of bullying that needs to be addressed. Then in a courageous move, he started to share his own personal story of bullying and coming to terms with his sexual orientation. The speech he gave to the City Council would be the first time he had ever spoken of certain events and reflections of his life, and in those tearful moments, he held captive all who were listening… and all who would come to listen to his address. Read more

Message in a Bottle

Sometimes the best, most inspiring of things are the simplest things. This short stop-motion animation by Kirsten Lepore is a great example of that.

Beautiful in its simplicity, it is heart-felt, and speaks volumes with so little.

From transactional to transformational

Dr. Cleve W. Stevens (Photo credit CSRwire Talkback)

Late last week, I came across a blog post by Dr. Cleve W. Stevens, the founder and President of Owl Sight Intentions, Inc., giving his perspective on BP’s management of the Gulf oil spill earlier this year.

He talks about the differentiation between a transactional approach to operations, problem-solving, and leadership, compared with a transformational approach. My own personal interpretation is that much of the world still operates within a transactional paradigm, driven by the short-term motivation of economic profits. A transformational way of being occurs when a greater vision is taken on that strives towards enabling the personal growth and holistic well-being and betterment of other people and a community alongside a person or organization’s development. It is a long-term motivation driven by mutual benefit and sustainability. Dr. Stevens uses BP as an excellent example highlighting not only the difference between the two approaches, but also the magnitude of the outcomes: both potential and actual.

The original post can be found at CSRwire’s Talkback blog and I have also included it here below. I highly recommend reading it. It’s not only a great read, but offers compelling insight into the way companies and individuals carry themselves. If nothing else, it presents interesting food for thought.

At the end of the day, only you can decide what kind of leader or company you want to be.

. Read more

Look up. Feel better.

To say it’s been a hectic few weeks… and months would be a slight understatement. Yet, in saying that, I know I’m not alone. Judging by how focused, introspective, and rushed my fellow Torontonians seem to be… brushing by me on the street, on and off transit, and in and out of stores – it’s quite apparent that I’m not the only one. <Insert collective sigh here.>

In one such typical moment of rush – waiting for the Toronto Queen streetcar to arrive to whisk me off to work – I happened to look up. Read more


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