Picture this: Seeing a beautiful, bright, red-orange glow, only to find it disappear from your very eyes, leaving you in complete and utter darkness. Now, imagine every night of your life, with only a dim flicker of a dangerous kerosene lamp lighting your way.
Knowing that 15 million Filipinos live this type of life, 16-year-old Mark Lozano decided this was a major problem that urgently needed to be solved. Researching solutions, Mark finally found something to help those in need. And so, in August 2010, ‘One Million Lights Philippines’ was established.
Mark Lozano was eight years old when his parents started to involve him in voluntary work. They brought him to church outreach programs, typhoon services and much more. After a while, he realised how fulfilling these events were, and saw that these little things were such a major help. Along with that, these events were also very fun.
After going to a leadership seminar in America, he was inspired. He realised he had the potential to do so much more. With this, Mark decided he wanted to help people living troubled lives.
At the time, kerosene lighting in the Philippines was a big, but unacknowledged problem. It was so big, that statistics showed that 15 million deaths were caused by kerosene every year, with 62% of children being affected. When asked why he chose kerosene lighting as a problem to solve, Mark said, ‘I knew people were already helping problems involving water and education and that required the special knowledge that I didn’t have. So light was a more straightforward problem I knew I could help solve.’
But Mark was young, and not many people wanted to volunteer to help him and his colleagues. After researching more, he found an organisation and a trusting friend that could help them begin the One Million Lights Philippines project.
Being only 16, Mark and his colleagues felt very unqualified as they were organising this. But this feeling only motivated him more. And so with determination, perseverance and the encouragement of his family, the organisation of One Million Lights Philippines came to be.
But this wasn’t the end. Up to this day, One Million Lights Philippines still spreads light throughout the Philippines, selling over 13,000 solar-powered lights to those struggling to live with kerosene lighting. These solar-powered lanterns not only took away health problems, but make it easier for children and adults to do chores and finish off their homework. The result? Increases in general productivity and improvements in education and livelihood that dramatically improved their lives.
Because of Mark Lozano, thousands of households living in the Philippines live healthier and happier lives. And though you may think you are too young or don’t have the mind to follow your dreams, persevere and do what you love.
As The One Million Lights Philippines organisation says, ‘You are never too young to make a difference.’
YJA 2017 Intermediate Section Winner: 'A light for a nation'; Noelle Ramirez, Montgrove College, Orchards Hill, NSW.