Illac Diaz named one of Asia Society’s Game Changer awardees

At Ati Village in Boracay, Philippines

At Ati Village in Boracay, Philippines

By Ricky Rillera

Illac Diaz, founder of My Shelter Foundation and Liter of Light, is one of Asia Society’s Asia Game Changer awardees.

Diaz, who promoted his Liter of Light project in Jersey City two years ago, in partnership with the Philippine-American Friendship Committee Inc. (PAFCOM), is being recognized “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.” The other honorees are from India, Japan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

In a statement Asia Society President Josette Sheeran said the organization is proud to honor a “group of remarkable leaders and institutions who are creating a better future for the people of Asia and the world.” She said the selection process began early this year, “inviting suggestions from Asia Society’s global network.”

More than 130 individuals and institutions were nominated. Asia Society took six months to decide before announcing the awardees on September 16. The 2014 Class of Asia Game Changers will be honored on October 16 at a Game Changer Awards Dinner at the United Nations Dining Room and Terrace.

Diaz is a social entrepreneur. His concept is to combine sunshine, water, and chlorine inside a used one-liter bottle to bring light to disadvantaged Filipinos. This means recycling tons of plastic bottles 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 bottle lamp was designed with the assistance of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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, said Diaz. His goal is to have one million lights installed worldwide by 2015.

It is a program 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. My Shelter Foundation hopes that “others take their work and continue to grow the concept, spreading it rapidly to empower and lighten the lives of people.”

Diaz met with then-Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon, Jr. and members of PAFCOM during a flag-raising ceremony in June 2012 to launch the commemoration of the Philippine Independence Day Parade and Festival. He also spoke to the Hudson Catholic to present his Isang Litrong Liwanag (1 Liter of Light program.)

Diaz is a son of Ramon Diaz, an accomplished visual artist, making him a nephew 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 Degree in Entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management. He took up Urban Studies and Planning at MIT in Cambridge. In 2008, he took his Master’s of Political Administration at Harvard University.

He is a recipient of several awards, including the Ten Outstanding Young Men, Everyday Hero Special Award from the Reader’s Digest Asia, and Young Global Leaders from the World Economic Forum.

Here are the rest of the awardees.

The  children of Malabon light up their town.

The children of Malabon light up their town.

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