Q: Could you describe a moment or interaction where you realized what impact you had made with One Million Lights?
A: More than the benefits of light is the part of the interview where you hear beneficiaries talk about how the light makes them happy or gives them hope that really makes us realize we are doing something good. we were told of stories about how the lights increased morale and promoted camaraderie within the community. We were told stories of how kids would like to hangout with friends later in the evening or how older ones would interact more because “the sun was still out”, referring to the lighting they had now.
Stories like this make me realize that the impact of our project affects people in many different aspects of their lives. To know now that more than 13,000 families have benefited from our projects makes me realize how much we’ve done, but in the same breath makes me realize how much more we have to do to reach our goal.
Another instance of realizing our impact is during the light distribution itself when beneficiaries turn on their lights for the first time. Sometimes, they have bland expressions as if its expected they get something, but in others, you see expressions of great joy, amusement and gratefulness. Some of these people turn on a light for the first time and are just so amazed at how it works. At that point we ask what they would use the light for and we get a long list of things. Seeing their expressions is enough to know we’ll be changing their lives.
Also, I am reminded of the impact we make every time I give a talk in a high school about the projects we do. Sometimes, we get desensitized to the impact of our projects make, because of the fact that its become a norm to talk about it and see it in action. However, every time we present our work to school kids, parents or other organizations, we tend to realize that while we aren’t quite at a million lights yet, the fact we are changing the lives of our current 13,000 is something big in itself. We get asked questions about the projects and unexpected reactions to the different facts and tidbits we present, these make us realize maybe we are on the right track. It’s funny how it takes the insight of others for us to realize how much we are actually doing. But I think that’s good, because we are never content with where we are, and look for ways to continue to improve.
Lastly, living in some of these beneficiary communities when we do these projects also makes us realize what exactly we are doing. We see how hard life can be without lights, and directly see the impact, when the sun sets and all these white lights turn on in the row of huts in front of me. That’s a really good feeling.