When I met up with TessDrive founders Tessa Salazar and Aries Espinosa at VegFest Pilipinas 2019 (https://www.facebook.com/VegFestPilipinas/) on Nov. 17 to catch up after over a decade of not seeing each other, I had no idea that this column would be born.
I have always been an optimist when it comes to technology. I truly believe that technology can be a force for good, and that the digital revolution opens up a wealth of opportunities to people, even the poorest of the poor. Technology can level the playing field and lift people out of ignorance and poverty.
This is why I readily said yes when I was invited to become a columnist for TessDrive. I believe wholeheartedly in this site’s advocacy, in promoting sustainability, environmental awareness, animal rights, a plant-based diet, and a healthier lifestyle.
I have always considered myself a progressive thinker, but the examples of my wife Ellen and our daughter Sam have made me even more woke—to use the language of the youth. This year, I became a climate advocate and joined my first Global Climate Strike (https://world.350.org/philippines/climatestrike2019/) in UP Diliman. A few months ago, I also became a lacto-ovo vegetarian (https://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian), and maybe one day I will be able to give up dairy and eggs and embrace a fully plant-based diet.
Which is why I’m happy that writing for this column is now part of my journey toward helping create a better world.
Of course, like any tool, technology can be misused and can bring about devastating consequences. Yet that speaks volumes more about the dark side of human nature rather than technology itself.
Technology can and should be a tool for good. It’s up to us to marry the sciences with the humanities, to save the world instead of destroying it, and to remind ourselves what it means to be human in a world increasingly run by machines.
In life, let us always embrace light instead of darkness.
Imagine that you are a child with no access to a computer in this digital age. In fact, to have no electricity at all, so that you are forced to study and do your homework by candlelight when the sun goes down.
This is the heartbreaking situation that Luis Baring, the founder of the advocacy group Brighter Communities (https://www.facebook.com/brightercommunities) (https://www.spreadkindnessph.com) , encountered when he visited a poor community five years ago.
“They had no electricity and very limited access to a lot of things most of us take for granted,” Baring said. “I felt that there were a lot of opportunities that the children were missing out on and that we are missing out on the biggest opportunity to help these children become future innovators and leaders.”
Baring, who works full time as the community engagement manager of Recruitday.com (https://www.recruitday.com), believes that technology should be accessible to everyone, and that it should be used to solve problems.
“Technology and kindness will make the world a better place. I have been supporting tech community events like meetups and conferences, and I can see a lot of potential in tapping that to reach out to children in marginalized communities,” he said.
In the Philippines, close to 2.4 million households still do not have access to electricity, based on data as of December 2017.
Baring hit upon the idea of providing a home solar kit, which includes a solar panel, battery, and LED bulbs, to each family in these off-the-grid communities, and so Brighter Communities was born.
At the moment, Brighter Communities is focused on giving all the families in Barangay Laiban, Tanay, Rizal a portable solar kit.
“There are a lot of bright and talented students in Laiban, for example, that have not touched an actual computer in their life. Teachers use keyboards and computer screens drawn on cardboards to teach them how to use it. That does not really do much for the students,” Baring said.
By donating portable solar kits that will provide electricity to their homes, Brighter Communities hopes to give these children a better future.
“I always believe that a little inspiration and kindness can go a long way in changing someone’s life. Giving the children light to study better at night can be that inspiration,” Baring said.
Baring is quite bullish about the future of home solar kits and clean energy in general in the Philippines.
“The technology for solar is there. It’s developed, sustainable, and, most especially, it’s cheap. I have tested and am currently using this one product that I bought online. On our first campaign, I asked friends to help the project by buying them online and shipping them to my office address. It was a great feeling to see deliveries week after week. In two months, we had 30.
“I believe clean and sustainable energy is the future. It also serves as an inspiring piece of technology for the children. In our next visit to the host community, we plan on teaching the kids the basics of solar and how to build something using it,” he said.
To raise funds to purchase these home solar kits, Brighter Communities has launched the #SpreadKindness social media campaign while selling T-shirts on which the hashtag is printed. In fact, these #SpreadKindness T-shirts were what drew me to the advocacy group’s booth at VegFest Pilipinas 2019, and I bought a shirt to support their cause.
“Social media has been one of my biggest tools in spreading the word and in inviting people to support the project. Brighter Communities is the project and advocacy. #SpreadKindness is the way to keep the advocacy going. It will serve as the backbone that will fund the project through our efforts and creativity, and not entirely on the donations of others,” Baring shared.
He said that as of this writing, over 200 households in Barangay Laiban and around the area still do not have access to electricity. During their last visit, Brighter Communities was also able to provide a portable solar kit for the local habal-habal association to use for their small terminal.
Recently, Brighter Communities also treated the students of Laiban Elementary School to a special day of wonder and inspiration at The Mind Museum (https://www.themindmuseum.org) in Bonifacio Global City as another act of kindness.
Would you also like to help bring the gift of light to off-the-grid communities? Sign up for the Brighter Communities newsletter (https://bit.ly/2RiIB7Z) today.
Spread kindness, everyone!