The celebration of a new year is a natural point to reflect back and then look forward. Here in Thailand the festival of Songkran is how we celebrate the new year (though technically the calendar does switch over on January 1st). So while people across the country are returning to life as suual following ringing in the new year with giant water fights and time spent with friends and family, we here at Imagine Thailand are taking the opportunity to reflect back on 2016 and our work in Mae Sot.
Clean Water Projects are a large focus of our work in and around Mae Sot, a small city on the Thai-Myanmar border. In this past year 8 new water filtration systems were installed in the Mae Sot area with 2 others being installed in other parts of Thailand. This brings us to a total of having 65 water systems installed in Thailand and another 10 in Myanmar. We work with migrant schools attended by mostly Karen people displaced from Myanmar. The water filtration systems not only provide clean water to the students and staff at the schools where the systems are installed, but entire communities gain access to clean water. We estimate that 13,000 – 15,000 people have access to clean water through our Clean Water Projects. Sustainable access to clean drinking water changes communities.
In addition to installing the water filtration systems, Imagine Thailand also provides system maintenance and maintenance training so that these units can serve communities at peak performance. In this last year we have provided maintenance services on 25 systems and have trained 35 people to maintain their own filtration units. The goal is to empower and not to make people dependent on us or our expertise.
The installation of these water systems provides our staff with a great opportunity to visit rural (and often remote) villages. Relationships have flourished and trust has been built. In addition to our Clean Water Projects, we have been able to take nutrient-rich soy milk to the children in many of the communities we work in. We produce our own soy milk at our centre in Mae Sot and we provide thousands of cups of soy milk each month to children in the Mae Sot area and across the border in Myanmar. This soy milk production helps boost the diets of students and creates jobs in the community.
Through the generosity of others we have been able to provide over 1,600 children with a personal cup. A cup may not seem like much, but it helps with hygiene and it’s a small way of telling a child they are thought of and valued. They have something to call their own.
We have the privilege of facilitating teams from Thailand and abroad who come to serve the schools and community groups of Mae Sot. This past year saw us welcome just over 100 people in 12 months. While this takes many hours of planning, the value of these visitors far outweighs the investment of hours. These volunteers bring countless hours of people-power, resources, energy, awareness to local issues, and fresh eyes to the work that we are doing in Mae Sot.
Seeing what has been accomplished is worth celebrating and we know there is a journey ahead. As we move forward into 2017 / 2560, we are excited for the Clean Water Projects underway. We will purchase and install 5 new multi-stage water filtration systems in migrant schools and children’s homes in the Mae Sot area at a cost of $12,000 which will bring sustainable access to clean water to 3,000 people. Additionally, multi-stage filtration units require different types of filters. When schools cannot afford to maintain or replace their filters, we work with them to find solutions. This year we will be working with the maintenance and labour of 39 multi-stage water filtration systems in Mae Sot migrant schools at a cost of $8,000. This will ensure that 5,000 people keep benefiting from clean water access that has impacted their communities. There are ways for you and your community group to be engaged. Connect us for more information.
Numbers make things measurable and we need them. What we cannot measure is the depth of change in a person’s life as they gain hours back from not fetching water, grow in physical health as they are not exposed to waterborne illness, or the financial breathing room that comes from not having to buy drinkable water. Even more immeasurable is how a child feels when told someone cares for them. Deeply. These are the things we’re reflecting on this Songkran.