How New Media is helping Humanitarian Orgs to Change Lives

An inspirational story of Light and Love, told through Social Media

Watts 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.


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.

About PastBook

About the company:

Founded in 2012 in Amsterdam by Stefano Cutello, as part of RockStart Accelerator, PastBook has been named one of the ‘Hottest startups in Europe” by Wired, won the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 in the "Media & Entertainment“ category and secured a top 20 spot in the Financial Times Europe's Fastest Growing Companies list.

PastBook is on a mission to make reliving memories frictionless. Allowing consumers to create beautiful photo products, in one-tap from pictures that are nowadays scattered between social networks and devices. Its Intelligent Instant Photo Book platform automatically and intelligently selects the best photos from the designated source, instantly arranging them into beautiful photo products, ranging from photo books, posters, photo tiles and calendars - printed and shipped worldwide across a global printing network.

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