The Branch Foundation

Our Mission: The Branch Foundation aims to work alongside marginalized communities in South-East Asia to support sustainable community development through education, capacity building and renewable energy solutions. Our Vision: Cohesive South-East Asian communities empowered to be self-reliant and able to participate in opportunities available in the wider community around them.
Aug 8, 2014

We are over halfway to reaching our target!

A photo from our last solar lighting project
A photo from our last solar lighting project

Thanks to your generous donation, we are over halfway to reaching our funding target for this project. It's people like you that enable to us to bring light to communities who otherwise have to rely on expensive and dangerous forms of lighting such as candles and kerosene lamps.

The benefits of solar lanterns are numerous. Not only do they provide a safe and reliable way for people to light up their homes, but they also allow the children to study after dark and give their parents more time at night to produce goods which they can sell.

Sai Tom, the school principle from the community, told us:

"I stay on the mountain which is very windy. It is dangerous and the risk of the fire is high. However, using solar panels has helped. It (the solar lantern) did improve my standard of living because I don’t need to spend money on candles and I can also work at night. It has also reduced the number of the patients who are sick because of the smoke (from the candles and kerosene lamps)."

As Loi Lum IDP Camp is in a very remote area of Burma, it not easily accessible during the rainy season (July to October). We hope to raise all the funds for buying and installing solar lanterns for residents’ homes and the local school within this time so that we can implement the project in one go. Until that time, we are holding the funds we have received so far and keeping the community at Loi Lum informed of any progress.

We sincerely hope that you consider donating again or telling your friends and family about this project in order to help us reach our funding target on time.

With gratitude,

Tom Rosen

Children studying using kerosene lamps as lighting
Children studying using kerosene lamps as lighting
The school where we will install solar panels
The school where we will install solar panels

Links:

Aug 4, 2014

Beyond the Smoke Settles Reform & Bright Futures

Sai Oo practices using the solar light from TBF
Sai Oo practices using the solar light from TBF

The following is a postcard from Charissa Murphy, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Southeast Asia, about her recent visit to The Branch Foundation in Thailand.

The strength of the smoke clouds our breath and hides the mountains in the distance. It's the season of burning in northern Thailand when many hill tribes and nearby farmers burn their fields to uncover crops and to regenerate the land for the next season. As I watch women from the refugee camp weaving traditional patterns with looms donated from The BranchFoundation (TBF), chills rush over me. I know that these are not the hardest breaths that they have taken. I know that they've experienced smoke in a more violent memory as some of their villages were ravaged and destroyed by the Burmese Army, killing many of their loved ones in front of them and forcing them out of their homes. They dream of returning again, but they also have many fears. I am amazed with the beauty and Shan unity they've built within the unofficial Shan refugee camp in Thailand on the border with Burma.

Walking the red dirt pathways of the camp, it seems empty. It's a weekday (Friday), so the children are at school (either in the camp "boarding school' or at one of the Thai schools) and the adults are all working (most of them in nearby fields or within the camp). It wasn't always like this, though. The barriers between the Shan families and the Thai systems are numerous. The educational programming that TBF supports through its donors' generous contributions has helped the entire community rise above the barriers. Their language fluency allows the children to grasp high achievements and compete with their Thai peers, and it also allows the adults to compete for work and improved conditions. Since many of the children were young or not yet born when the camp started, they have to learn both their own Shan language and the Thai language to be able to interact with the world around them. The older children and adults also are more effective and successful if they learn Thai too. With additional support for extra language classes (Thai, Shan, and English) after the normal work or school day, the impact that TBF is making is improving their lives.

In addition to supporting more traditional education, TBF also helps provide extracurricular learning such as in dance and music, providing the children an outlet to practice innovation and grow their confidence in a culture where traditionally personal expression was almost nonexistent due to government oversight. The result of such increases in confidence doesn't just make the parents proud. It teaches them to also be open to learning and trying new solutions. In turn, this allows all generations to work towards more progressive and advanced education and work options.

One such progressive integration into the community is in the training and use of solar lighting, which is also supported by TBF. Taking up the majority of his backpack for our two-day visit, Tom brought along a new type of desktop solar light for the camp leaders to test and report their feedback on the product. If it works well, then TBF will initiate a capacity building program to train an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in the Shan State of Burma and to distribute the solar panels there. The organization also wants to incorporate budget and financial planning, so it plans to pilot a program in the Shan State, Burma IDP camp where the families will payback a portion of the cost, which will then go directly into buying a solar planel for the next family.

As mentioned, TBF's current projects in the camp are varied (education, solar electricity, trainings, and capacity building), and one major focus is on education in various forms for the community. The looms provide opportunities for vocational trainings and income generation. TBF also supports providing salaries and teacher training programs for the teachers who devote their days to the students. One teacher in particular, Sai (Mister) Oo, never takes a day off, teaching in the camp's boarding school, the computer classes, and the numerous language classes, including Burmese and English. The enthusiasm to learn is tremendous here as after a long day of school (either the camp boarding school or local Thai school), the students and teachers (and sometimes camp adults) join together for the language courses. Sai Oo spent the Saturday morning during my visit with the students, giving them their quarterly Burmese language exam. None of the students complained about having to wakeup early on a Saturday for the exam. They just want to do well!

TBF visits regularly to ensure they understand the needs of the community. It's evident that TBF has established a personal, trusting relationship with the community. Along with inquiring about current project statuses and how things are going in the camp, Tom Rosen asks about the health and situation of various individuals. He cares about the people, and the leaders know that and openly share the good and less easing news.

TBF also seeks to continually learn and improve its own support. Dedicated to this, it also wants to be more transparent to contributors, so it developed an infographic to help donors understand its 100% funding model where donors have the choice to donate to a project and 100% goes into the cost of implementing that project or to donate to the organization's operational costs. The infographic of the 100% funding model can be found here: www.thebranchfoundation.org/donate/. The impact to the beneficiaries? More direct support translates into greater opportunity for advancement.

I had such a warm visit, and I know that the continually improving conditions and advancement of the camp and its residents occurs due to support from The BranchFoundation and therefore its donors!

Tom from TBF shows leaders how to use the light
Tom from TBF shows leaders how to use the light
TBF supports vocational training such as weaving
TBF supports vocational training such as weaving
a woman from the camp weaves w/a loom from TBF
a woman from the camp weaves w/a loom from TBF
solar panels line the view of the refugee camp
solar panels line the view of the refugee camp
Jul 16, 2014

Update from TBF HQ.

The camp headman & Tom discussing renewable energy
The camp headman & Tom discussing renewable energy

Dear friends of The Branch Foundation, 

I hope this report finds you well. 

It has been a very busy few months. The highlights include a new solar project in collaboration with Solbakken organisation, recruited more volunteers, and held a successful and productive Annual General Meeting! We recently visited the Shan Refugee Camp and, as per usual, the headman was working on a new renewable energy invention. His forward thinking and innovative spirit never ceases to surprise me. It is once again the monsoon season here in Thailand so a good time to strategically plan the year a head. 

Our operational costs still remain our most pressing need. We have been spending much time working on different approaches to gain more regular monthly support to ensure the sustainability of the organisation and all of our projects. We are confident that together we can reach our goal and appreciate your support immensely.

If you are not already a regular donor, I do encourage you to consider making your contribution a monthly one. Click HERE for GlobalGiving’s recurring donation option. Monthly contributions enable us to plan in advance and also ensure the continuation of all of our work. Please feel free to share this with any of your friends that might be interested, a collective spirit goes a long way! 

This Wednesday is Bonus Day where all donations will be matched at 50% until matching funds run out. A great opportunity to make your donation go that much further!

With warm regards,

Iona.

A new bio gas cooker
A new bio gas cooker
Young camp resident
Young camp resident

Links:

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