Diagram decorative image

Witnessing Innovation in Haiti

My son and I recently went with a group of 14 to visit five clinics in Northern Haiti. While most of our group was made up of doctors and nurses for the five clinics we went to help, I was able to offer engineering assistance. In the small towns where the clinics are located, electricity and running water are not available. Their only source of power is a small portable generator, and they carry bottles of water from the one well at the edge of town. “Green” living is the only options in this type of environment, where natural resources are critical and methods of lighting and gathering water are sustainable and inexpensive.

Using 2-liter bottles, water, and bleach, we created and installed what has become known as the “Solar Bottle Bulb.” This innovative method has been making its way into impoverished communities such as the Philippines, Manila, and Haiti through organizations such as My Shelter Foundation and volunteers. The setup for these solar bottles is relatively simple. We cut holes slightly smaller than the circumference of the bottles into 10X10 inch pieces of sheet metal. Small slits in the metal around the holes allowed it to bend upwards and around the bottles. We used sealant to keep the bottles into place with approximately two thirds of the bottle hanging below the metal sheet. When the sealant dried, we filled the bottles with water, adding a small amount of bleach to keep the water clear. The Solar Bottle Bulbs were then ready to be installed into holes in the structures’ ceilings.

On a bright day, this innovative method produces the equivalent amount of light as a 55 watt bulb. It serves as a more powerful source of light than the standard window or skylight which only allows in as much light that directly falls through. This is possible because of the refraction and internal reflection of the natural light as it passes through the water.

The 12 day trip into the mountains of Haiti was an amazing experience. The people were very friendly, the land beautiful, and it was wonderfully rewarding to help people in such need. We were happy to return to our normal busy life with all the conveniences of home, but I’m sure that my son and I will return as I think of the people often.