How New Media is helping Humanitarian Orgs to Change Lives
An inspirational story of Light and Love, told through Social Media
24 SEPTEMBER 2013, AMSTERDAM, NL & ILLINOIS, USA
SummaryWatts of Love, a non-profit org, partnered with startup PastBook to publish an online ebook of their recent humanitarian trip to the Philippines, delivering 1,000 solar lights to remote impoverished communities living without access to electricity. The ebook binds Instagram photos and text into an emotive story, which reads stronger as a whole over single images. This innovative method demonstrates how non-profit organisations can use new media to communicate their story and change the world.
Earlier this year, Illinois based non-profit organisation Watts of Love delivered 1,000 solar lights to impoverished communities living without access to electricity on Ilin Island, Philippines. The island has roughly 35,000 people living with no access to electricity, roads, buildings, clean water, medical care or infrastructure. The mission also included photographing 40 couples who had waited years to be married, yet could not afford the $60 USD equivalent marriage license without the support of a local charity.
Throughout the journey, photographer Kevin Kuster documented the humanitarian mission by sharing real-time images on his Instagram account (@kevinkuster) and that of the JJ Community (@joshjohnson), an online photo community of over 425,000 followers where Kuster is the Chief Photo Editor. The images received an overwhelming response, and caught the attention of PastBook and many other worldwide viewers.
The Instagram photos revealed the remarkable stories of several families living on Ilin Island who struggle without basic access to electricity. They capture the emotional response of people receiving their solar light, and the extent of how light will improve their living conditions by eliminating hazardous and toxic kerosene lamps, allowing children to study longer and parents to be more productive when the sun goes down.
This was also the story of hope and love. 40 couples waited years to get legally married, an opportunity provided through the support of a local charity to cover the costs of a priest, license fee, traditional marriage clothing, and a mass ceremony for all the families. Watts of Love donated the services of a photographer and provided each couple a wedding photograph, which was printed, framed and immediately gifted to each couple – the first and only photograph these people have ever owned.
The combination of images and story-telling engage viewers and make them feel that they are being taken along on the journey. Originally, however, the photos were difficult to view as a collection within the limitations of the Instagram app format, so each photo had to be viewed one at a time.
PastBook provided an opportunity to use their technology to display the photos in a digital book format in order to more effectively communicate the full story of the mission, and donated their services to bring this story to life.
The digital book was created using the PastBook online platform, which enables a user to easily collate photos from Instagram and other social media sites into a book, and share this to spread the word. The e-book can be downloaded as a PDF, or printed as a hardcopy to present to potential followers, donors, investors, or sold to help raise funds for future projects.
PastBook will continue to make their easy-to-use and autonomous online platform available for charities and organizations to self-publish their story through social media.
This innovation allows smaller organizations to voice their presence and mission on a global scale, using minimal resources and the power of social media to help change the world.
DONATIONS FOR FUTURE PROJECTS
Since the success of the first mission to Ilin Island, Watts of Love have continued their solar lighting donation program with projects in Haiti, Mozambique and Ghana. Instagram will continue to play a large role in documenting and spreading the word about these projects.
Kevin Kuster has initiated a Wedding Gift Giving Program where he will donate 10% of his photography fees from wedding commissions towards assisting couples in these poor communities who cannot afford to get married. It is his goal and intention to go back to the Philippines and other countries and institute the same successful program.
PastBook will donate profits from the sale of Watts of Love books, as well as a percentage from all personal photobooks created using the special code WATTSOFLOVE towards funding for future Watts of Love projects.
"Right before my trip, I decided I would post every day and several times a day and just take people with me on my journey. Although it might sound silly, I decided to check my “photographers ego” at the door and post images that told the story instead of just great individual single images. I learned that by posting images AND telling followers how I was feeling and what was happening, all of my followers felt like they were taking the journey with me. I had no idea so many people would take the trip with me and be so positively affected." Kevin Kuster, Photographer for Watts of Love
"Had I not been posting on Instagram this amazing opportunity [to publish a digital book with PastBook] would have never presented itself to me and help get the story of Watts of Love out to more people. I have completely embraced that social media is the single best way to tell others about people in third world countries that don’t have access to electricity and how providing them with a solar light is one of the fastest ways out of poverty." Kevin Kuster, Photographer for Watts of Love
"It’s an incredible story, and I am really happy that PastBook can contribute to bringing this story to the general public and help to change lives. We deal with gathering and printing photographs on a daily basis – and yet there are millions of people who have never owned a photo in their life, not to mention such basic needs as having light after the sun goes down. Working with Watts of Love to create and spread this photo story seemed like the perfect match for our technology, and I hope it can make a difference." Stefano Cutello, CEO at PastBook
"This father told us that no one in his family had eaten that day. He put salt and water in a bowl and had the children dip their fingers into it so they could taste something. " Excerpt from the Watts of Love Book
"Grandmama could not stop looking at her new light. She kept asking us: "Why would you do this for me? No one has ever given me anything.” This woman will live in my memory forever." Excerpt from the Watts of Love Book
About the company
Started in Milan, Italy in 2011 as an extra-time project, PastBook moved to Amsterdam in March 2012 after being selected by Rockstart Accelerator as one of top 10 startups among hundreds of applicants from around the world.
PastBook is on a mission to help people relive memories that are nowadays scattered between social networks, friends and devices by allowing them to create beautiful and shareable photo albums in seconds.
Their independent platform enables users to easily create photo album, from different social media sources and build private, personal and collaborative photo albums in a snap. Photo albums can be viewed and shared online or printed into a beautifully bound book.
Its technology is also available for business in white-label or through RESTful API integration.
About the founder
Stefano Cutello – CEO
Former technical leader and scrum master at eBay Italy and entrepreneur since the age of 18, he came up with the idea of creating PastBook when browsing through a family photo album with his father. Having realized that he would not be able to recollect his own memories saved all over the Internet so easily, he decided to provide a platform for that.
In order to fully commit to the idea, he quit his job at eBay, relocated to Amsterdam, while having put all of his property in Italy for sale: a car, a motorbike and a house.
Agile by definition, passionate about everything that has to do with technology, lateral thinker and an innate product developer. His motto: "hard work is the way to success".