Women Inmates Make Solar-Powered Lamps for Haiyan Shelters

Monday, 28 April 2014

‘Most of the big contributions in Haiyan relief aren’t from big people or big names. The real heroes are the nameless and the faceless,’ says social entrepreneur Illac Diaz

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GIVING LIGHT. An inmate of the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong attaches a frame to a solar panel which will be used to power lamps in Haiyan shelters. All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines – Ten women in orange are gathered around a table. Their nimble fingers are attaching metal frames to palm-sized solar panels, gluing blue pipes to the panels using epoxy, putting wires through the pipes.

Once upon a time, they were charged with drug use, illegal recruitment, and stealing. But today, and for the past 3 weeks, they have been busy making solar-powered lights for Haiyan-hit communities in Eastern Visayas.

The covered court at the top of the maximum security facility of the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong City serves as their workshop.

The court’s large windows provide ample light for the delicate work they do. The high ceiling and open space provides much breathing room and storage for the boxes and boxes of solar-powered lamps they have finished making.

So far, 500 lamps have reached houses in Palo and shelters and bunkhouses in Tacloban, both in Leyte. Hundreds more will make their way to energy-strapped towns in Iloilo. (READ: Groups to Lacson: Tap renewable energy for Haiyan areas)

The total of 18 women trained to make the lamps can churn out 300 to 400 lamps a day. They toil from 8 am to 5 pm. To do the work they do, they went through a one-month training given by My Shelter Foundation, an organization founded by Illac Diaz of Liter of Light fame.

The idea of turning it into a livelihood program for CIW inmates, however, came from Marge Gutierrez, a volunteer lawyer for the institute.

“I found out that a majority of the women here were charged with the crime of estafa. Most of them resorted to crime because they needed money to feed their families,” Gutierrez told Rappler.

“So if we can provide them livelihood here, they can still help their families even if they are inside.”

Gutierrez approached Diaz with the idea, which was given a greater sense of urgency when Haiyan crashed into the Philippines. (WATCH: Solar panels bring hope to Haiyan-hit Guiuan)

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WOMEN IN ORANGE. An inmate of the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong cuts metal frames for solar panels intended for Yolanda-hit communities

The program is more than a way to pass time. The mechanical and electrical skills the women have learned can help them outside the facility’s walls.

When the women leave the facility, their skills can help them get jobs in local solar panel companies. Since all the components used for the lamps are locally-sourced, the women can also choose to make solar lamps themselves and sell to their community.

Read the full article on Rappler.com >>