Venezuelan electric engineer offers light bulb repairs amid rising costs

Global Business

Venezuelan electric engineer offers light bulb repairs amid rising costs

A new business has sprung up as a result of the economic crisis in Venezuela: light bulb repair shops.

They operate in many open markets across the country, and make it possible for some Venezuelans to light their homes while also providing a living for those who do the repairs. CGTN’S Juan Carlos Lamas has more from Caracas.

Electronic engineer Ely Peña has a set of tools for a new trade. He’s set up shop in a market in downtown Caracas, where he breathes life into damaged light bulbs. Pena watched YouTube tutorials to learn the intricate process of repairing a damaged bulb. This is now the biggest source of income for him and his family. 

“As Venezuelans, we need to find new ways of getting money. The minimum wage is not enough. Prices rise every day, so for me, this is a great way of getting extra and much needed money,” Peña said.

It’s a dangerous job. Each light bulb contains a small amount of mercury, a drop of mercury can contaminate up to 25,000 glasses of water. And if it’s inhaled, mercury can cause severe damage to the nervous system. 

But Peña said it’s worth the risk, generating profits for him and savings for his clients. Buying a new light bulb can cost up to U.S. $5, but getting one repaired costs just two U.S. cents. 

“People can save cash to buy some food, life has become too expensive to live,” Peña added.

Some light bulbs need a simple weld. Others require bigger fixes. Spare parts are scarce, so Peña often uses discarded electronic parts from old TVs.  He can repair as many as 100 light bulbs each week. And for customers struggling to make ends meet with hyperinflation at more than a million percent. The savings from fixing old bulbs can mean there’s money to feed their families.    

“I can save up essential money to buy other things, from now on I’ll get my damaged light bulbs fixed.” said customer Aracelis Rondón.

Once repaired, each light bulb can last up to five months. Frequent power blackouts decrease the lifetime of  electronic items including light bulbs. For Venezuelans whose minimum wage is less than U.S. $6 a month, recycling and repairing light bulbs is one path out of the darkness.