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.
Tom Rosen and The Branch Foundation Team
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.
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:
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.
On behalf of The Branch Foundation Team and the Shan State Development Foundation, I would like to thank you for your generous donation towards this project. As it sometimes takes a few months for us to receive disbursements from GlobalGiving - we have yet to receive any funding towards this project. However, that does not mean that we have been sitting idle.
To ensure that we provide the most appropriate and efficient solar lighting for the residents' homes, we have been testing out a new piece of equipment at Loi Lum IDP camp. This solar light only requires a very small panel and can be used in a variety of ways such as holding the lamp in your hand or hanging it from the ceiling. We are currently waiting to hear the results of its effectiveness from the families at the Internally Displaced Persons camp.
For the local school, we plan to install a similar solar system to our previous successful project at the Shan refugee camp, which was completed in January 2012. These are much larger and produce more energy meaning that not only will we be able to generate light but also power computers for the students. Current conditions in the school are not ideal as illustrated by the following quote from Mwe Hkur, the Education Coordinator from the Shan State Development Foundation:
"Students from Loi Lum School have never learned anything through multimedia in their life due to the lack of electricity. They normally end up studying in dark rooms with low quality textbooks."
We have still not reached our funding target for this exciting project so I hope that you can spread the word to your friends and family or even consider a monthly recurring donation.
Tom Rosen - Co-Director/Project Manager
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