Solar Lighting for 120 Displaced People in Burma

 
$3,317
$1,683
Raised
Remaining
Children from the community walking to school
Children from the community walking to school

Firstly, The Branch Foundation team would like to wish you a happy Earth Day 2015. This is a day for us to pause and look at our impact on this precious planet which we all share. For many people across the world, renewable energy solutions are not just a choice but a necessity due to where they live. This is true for the community at Loi Lum Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, where there is no access to the electrical grid, thus the residents used to rely on kerosene lamps and candles to light their homes.

Fortunately, with the help of generous people such as yourself, we have managed to bring clean and efficient solar lighting to each household which has since increased safety within the camp and also allowed children to study and adults to continue working into the night. However, we are still short of our goal of supplying a solar system to the community's school so that the children have enough energy to power computers. Access to information technology will not only help the kids to study for existing subjects but it will also introduce them to computing skills which are vital in today's world.

The Branch Foundation installed a solar system for a computer in a refugee camp in 2012, which enabled reliable access to this resource by both the children and adults of this community. Sai Oo, the computer teacher at the time, told us the following in an email he wrote on that same computer:

"All the people in the camp benefit from the solar powered computer. You and your supporters have helped protect the environment, save on electrical bills and support education therefore we would like to thank you very much."

We would be extremely grateful, if on this important day, you choose to help this community with your 'act of green' by either donating again or telling your friends and family about this project.

Sincerely,

Tom Rosen and The Branch Foundation Team

The remote area in Shan State, Burma
The remote area in Shan State, Burma
A solar powered computer we installed in 2012
A solar powered computer we installed in 2012
A resident studies by candlelight
A resident studies by candlelight

We are delighted to inform you that, after everyone's wonderful fundraising activities for this project, we have managed to make our first disbursement of solar lanterns to this remote Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Shan State, Burma. The residents of Loi Lum IDP camp have previously had to rely on expensive, dangerous and unhealthy forms of lighting such as kerosene lamps and candles in order to light their homes after sun down. Not only did this effect the health, safety, and disposable income of the community but made it difficult for the children to study and their parents to continue income generating activities at night.

Earlier this month we were excited to hear that 40 solar lanterns arrived safely at Loi Lum. These provide not only an excellent source of household light but are also capable of recharging phones. Residents can choose the level of lighting, from low to medium to bright, which enables them to maximize their control of battery life. The lanterns provide a light meter reading so that people can position the solar panels to ensure they get the most of the sunlight available.

Sai Tom, the local school principle, said the following in an email:

"I have just given the villages the solar lanterns and they are very happy with them. They would like to thank The Branch Foundation and it's supporters"

We hope to raise the remaining funds before March, at which time we plan to install the solar system for the school and to provide another 7 solar lanterns to the community. We sincerely hope that you consider donating once again to this worthwhile cause so that we can reach our funding target and, more importantly, our goal of providing cheap, safe and clean energy to this remote community.

With sincere gratitude,

Tom Rosen and The Branch Foundation Team

Each household representative receives a lantern
Each household representative receives a lantern
Your donation = A lasting difference for many
Your donation = A lasting difference for many
Charging up!
Charging up!
A meeting with Loi Lum
A meeting with Loi Lum's school principle

As this report title suggests, we are coming up to our twelfth month of fundraising in order to supply solar power to the homes and the school of Loi Lum Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. In the past year we have tested solar lanterns in the community to find out which ones would be most suitable, received feedback from the residents in regard to their most pressing needs and maintained correspondence with the IDP camp. In recent developments, we had the pleasure of actually meeting and speaking face to face to Sai Tom - the school principle of Loi Lum who is helping us implement this project. He walked 6 hours, through dense jungle and up steep mountain slopes, to explain first hand to us the importance of solar lighting in his community.

“The residents have been waiting patiently since they tested out the last solar lanterns you brought us. They saw, from testing the device, what a difference it can make to their daily lives. The children could study after dark and the adults can continue to work on income generating activities without having to rely on expensive, dangerous and unhealthy kerosene lamps and candles”.

During this conversation, I felt the urgency in his voice. The residents of Loi Lum had been waiting approximately 10 months since they tested the solar lantern we provided them, I’m not sure whether I could maintain the same level of patience they have shown. Iona, the Executive Director of The Branch Foundation, and I knew we had to push the fundraising to a new level and become creative in our ideas to ensure that the this community in a remote region of Shan State, Burma, could once again experience the benefits of this clean, cheap and non-toxic renewable form of lighting.

We came up with the idea of ‘dinners by candlelight’ - a fundraising campaign to give our supporters and potential donors an idea of the conditions in which the residents of Loi Lum experience in their daily lives whilst also advocating the importance of the project. Lights are turned off and mobile phones ditched as people host dinners for their friends and family using only candles as lighting. We have received a huge amount of interest in this fundraising idea and have already had dinners held in the UK, USA and Thailand. We hope that the aim of this project inspires you to also host a dinner by candlelight, if so - click HERE for more information regarding this campaign. Please note that we are extending the deadline of this fundraising initiative until the end of November.

Sincerely,

Tom Rosen and The Branch Foundation Team

Current condition in which the children study
Current condition in which the children study
A
A 'dinner by candlelight' hosted in Thailand

Links:

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:

Children studying using kerosene lamps as lighting
Children studying using kerosene lamps as lighting

In our last report regarding this project, we informed you that we sent a new design of solar lantern to be tested at Loi Lum internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Shan State, Burma. Since that time we have received feedback from the community members who got the opportunity to experience solar lighting in their households for the first time. The results were very similar to those we received from our previous solar lighting project at the Koung Jor Shan refugee camp.

The solar lantern was tested in four households in the IDP camp and this is what we learned:

  • All 4 households reported that they now worry less about household fires (success rating = 4.25 out of 5)
  • Residents did not have any issues using these easy to install lanterns
  • An average of 215 THB (7 USD) was saved per month due to not having to buy candles and kerosene. That's an amazing 75% of their monthly income!
  • All residents said that having safe lighting at night improved their standard of living
  • The solar lanterns allowed all children to study after dusk and also enabled the older residents to continue working on products such as brooms and roof thatches which they sell in the local area

Mr Hsen illustrated the benefits of solar lighting to the local children's education by saying "The children could do home work together without parents worrying that they will use the fire dangerously".

We are now very confident that these new solar lighting systems will achieve the objectives that we have set ourselves for this project. Over the next few months we hope to raise the remaining funds so that when the rainy season has ended and the camp is more easily accessible, we can provide all the households in this community with clean and safe lighting.

On 16th July, GlobalGiving will be hosting a bonus day in which they will match all donations by 40%. This is a perfect opportunity to get this project fully funded and we hope that you can help us. There are many ways in which you can raise funds such as telling your friends about this project, hosting a dinner party or completing a sponsored walk/run. Please feel free to email me if you would like help setting up a GlobalGiving fundraising page and/or hosting an event.

Many thanks,

Tom Rosen and The Branch Foundation Team

The school at Loi Lum
The school at Loi Lum
A family eating dinner together in semi darkness
A family eating dinner together in semi darkness

Links:

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Project Leader

Tom Rosen

Project Manager
Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Thailand

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