Over the past two weeks, our on-site Project Coordinator has been hard at work interviewing the residents of the Shan Refugee Camp, the community which you helped bring clean and green lighting to in 2012. The interviews assessed how the solar panel project has affected their lives over the last year.
We are very proud of the results, and you should be too. You are the ones who helped us make 'the world's first solar-lit refugee camp'! The project had three main objectives - to reduce fire risks in the thatched houses, allow the children to study after dark and to save the household's money. Camp residents previously spent high amounts on expensive candles and kerosene lamps. Here is a summary of what the residents had to say and the benefits of the project within the refugee camp:
Not only did the project achieve the objectives we set but it also allowed some residents to carry out other activities with the improved lighting such as weaving, embroidery and making thatched roofs at night. Many residents also mentioned an improvement in their health due to not having to breathe in the smoke from the kerosene lamps/candles.
Here are some quotes from the residents themselves:
Loung Kaw La (46 years old) - "I can see that my son's English is getting better as he reads out loud at night."
Nong Kam Kham (30 years old) - "I am very happy to be using solar lighting as my little girl was previously badly burnt from a candle and still carries scars. Thank you very much to The Branch Foundation and it's supporters. I can now save money and use it for different purposes. I have safer light for my children so I wish you a brighter life!"
Mae Tao Yen (75 years old) - "I have less headaches and bad smells in my house due to not having to use kerosene lamps."
One thing that was brought to our attention from reading the interviews was that some of the bulbs which came with the solar lighting pack did not last very long. Since hearing this information, we are committed to replacing them with light-emitting diode (LED) strips which not only last a lot longer but are even brighter!
You can see the faces of the residents and read ALL their opinions about the Solar Panel Lighting project by downloading the following documents.
Interviews Part 1 (5.7 MB)
Interviews Part 2 (6.4 MB)
As you can see, you really can make a large difference to the lives of people in this vibrant community. Please consider donating to our EDUCATION PROJECT in the same refugee camp. Remember that GlobalGiving is matching ALL donations by 30% on the 13th of March starting at 2PM GMT, making your donation go that much further!
Tom Rosen and The Branch Foundation Team
It's nearly been one year since we put the 'Solar lighting for 600 Burmese Refugees - Thailand' project up on GlobalGiving.
It's been amazing to see the amount of support it's received from all over the world and we would like to once again like to say a huge THANK YOU to you who helped the project become a success!
With your help, we managed to raise all the funds neccesary within one month of hosting the project on GlobalGiving. Within three months, we had already installed all the solar panels on top of the thatched roofs of the Shan Refugee Camp community. Since that time, children have been able to study after dark and fire hazards posed by the previously used candles and kerosene lamps have all but been eliminated (not a single fire has broken out since implementing the project).
This project was one of a kind, the world's first solar-lit refugee camp! It gained much media attention, including in the esteemed Al Jazeera (click here to read). You can also see where your generous donation went to in a short film by clicking the link below:
Along with YOUR help, not only did The Branch Foundation provide the remaining solar panels needed for the refugee camp residents, but we also managed to buy more solar panels to power a computer so that community members always have access to the outside world.
As you can see, small donations from many individuals can make a MASSIVE difference to people's lives.
We hope that you can continue to support this vibrant yet overlooked community by donating to our NEW project within the same community:
Empower Ethnic Burmese Refugee Through Education
You've already provided light; please let this follow on by also helping to provide a brighter future for the children of the Shan Refugee Camp.
Many thanks once again,
The Branch Foundation Team
Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Thailand:
On May 28, I was able to visit the Shan village that received solar lighting from The Branch Foundation. I saw where the community is now and the impact the solar panels have made on their lives.
Walking through the unofficial refugee camp, I saw solar panels on the houses’ roofs. Iona, the Executive Director and Founder, explained that the poorest families received the panels first, then the remaining families received theirs so that the whole village has access to lighting and electricity at night. At one of the houses, we met “grandpa” – a village elder. He lost is wife, “grandma”, and lived alone. When he welcomed us into his home he shared the story he has told many visitors before about his history in Burma/Myanmar and then demonstrated the light he receives now because of the panel. I asked what he used the light for, and he replied for cooking at night. Another village elder (who says she is 90) explained she also uses the lights at night to cook. Why is this important? Because in the day community members are working which does not leave time to prepare food and/or study. By having light at night to do basic life activities, they are able to spend the daytime increasing income for the families – improving livelihoods.
The Branch Foundation was a part of the community – welcomed like a family – and because I came with TBF, I was new family too. Everywhere we went community members came out to speak with us, share news in the family (1 woman just received a new GREAT granddaughter in the family), and sit to laugh swapping stories. These solar panels have made, and are still creating, an incredible impact in the community which does not receive electricity in homes from the state since it is not an “official” refugee camp; without documents this community cannot receive services from the state but cannot return back to their home country either – a stateless community.
To learn more visit JacquelineInTheFieldBlog.
To support The Branch Foundation's: Emergency Relief Fund Southeast Asia
We just returned from the solar panel installation trip, and it was a great success!!
Your generous donations really have made a difference, and we would like to warmly thank you on behalf of the community. We watched the solar panels being handed out to each individual family, the acutal panels being installed and then the absolute delight (and often disbelief) as people turned on the light switch for the first time.
One 70 year old women said with tears in her eyes "this is the first electricity I have ever had in any home I lived in, I am lost for words.' This rhetoric was echoed around the community, and the excitement was visible on everyones faces. It was a humbling experience, and 'you are welcome' just did not seem to measure the gratitude of the community.
Two journalists came on the trip and are busy working on a story with the focus of 'The World's First Solar Lit Refugee Camp,' and we will be sure to send you a link once it's ready. We, at The Branch Foundation, are excited that YOU helped make this project such a success!
To view a gallery of our recent visit, please click here.
In the next month the community members will receive training on solar panel maintenance. We are also looking into developing further alternative energy projects in the camp such as a biogas system which is currently in the pilot project phase.
We have two other exciting yet vital projects on GlobalGiving. For more information regarding them, please visit our main page:
Thank you for your ongoing support!
It has been truly humbling to see everyone's kind donations and interest towards our project to supply every family in a refugee camp consisting of 600 residents with solar lighting.
With your help, we easily managed to reach our original target goal of $5,000 within the first few weeks of the challange and now have a permanent spot on GlobalGiving which provides us with a great opportunity to raise funds for future projects. So far we have received donations from 130 people from over 10 different countries, proving that even the smallest donation can make a large difference!
When we heard we reached our target goal and told the camp headman, he replied 'Congratulations to you and us. Wow!! you did a very very great job. We are all looking at each other with smiling faces'.
We are looking forward to implementing the project in February, and showing what community spirit along with the help from generous people like you can achieve in the next report. There has been a lot of media interest regarding this project as this is the first solar powered refugee camp in the world. We can't wait to update you further.
Once again, thank you for your continued support, it is with your help that we are able to achieve such amazing things and hope to continue to do so far into the future.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.
Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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