Songkran 2017

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. 


The Clean Water Project: 2017 Focus

Having water and having clean, safe, drinking water are not the same thing. In the border region where Thailand and Myanmar meet, there is no shortage of water. Towns and villages draw from the Moei River or local wells. For those using pipeline water, there is an understanding that what comes out of your tap should not go into your body. Whether it’s issues with filtration or the poor quality of the pipelines (usually as a result of installation practices), residents understand the health risks. Villages removed from town centres rely on well water or water diverted from nearby streams. This untreated water poses a health risk.


The daily impact of unsafe drinking water is felt by many. Diarrhea and stomach issues, weakness, fatigue, and frequent kidney stones are common complications from drinking the water you have and not the clean water you want. The young, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health issues are most adversely impacted. The same water that keeps you alive can also make you sick.


For those that can afford it, 1 gallon of clean drinking water costs around 15 to 20 Thai Baht. That’s 50 to 75 cents. In a country that’s known for it’s heat, in a home where most likely multiple generations live together as a larger family, this can add up quickly. Clean drinking water becomes unaffordable. And just like that it is not a lack of access to clean water, but a financial barrier that stops families from living in good health. For these families they must either boil the water, investing time and money, or drink untreated water.


At Imagine Thailand, we work with the Burmese migrant community on both sides of the Thai-Myanmar border. In many ways these communities have worked to be self-sufficient. Affordable, sustainable access to clean water is one way we are working to empower these communities.


Imagine Thailand partners with migrant schools and student children’s homes because these spaces serve as a rallying point for the community. We assess the water needs of the school and the greater community and install an appropriate multi-stage water filtration system. Once these systems are installed, for 3 years we work together with teachers and locals to provide maintenance and filter training. After those 3 years we are always on call to help with any problems that may come up. We don’t want to make people dependent on us, but we also never want them to be alone. Clean drinking water is something we take seriously.


Access to affordable and sustainable clean drinking water changes so much for a community. It frees up time and financial resources and this makes way for good things. When we complete a new installation, the sense of joy and relief amongst the students and teachers is real. There are always lots of smiles. Clean water goes beyond saving time and money and providing better health - it gives people confidence that what they are about to drink is good for them and good for their children. That peace of mind is powerful.


In 2017, Imagine Thailand continues to work with migrant communities to provide clean, affordable, and sustainable access to drinking  water.


NEW SYSTEMS || We will purchase and install 5 new multi-stage water filtration systems in migrant schools and children’s homes in the Mae Sot area.

Cost $12,000

Impact: 3,000 people

MAINTENANCE || 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.

Cost: $8,000

Impact: 5,000 people


If you would like to know more about our Clean Water Projects or would like to invest in the cost of clean water, please contact us here. This #WorldWaterDay, choose to be involved.


Christmas 2016 in Takua Pa

This past December, the Lighthouse Learning Centre in Takua Pa held it’s annual Christmas Party. It was a wonderful day and the team from the Centre still reflect on it with enthusiasm. There were almost 70 kids who regularly attend the centre, 20 kids from the community, and around 70 parents in attendance. It was a full house and it built a great atmosphere of celebration.


There were songs on the ukulele played by one of the Centre’s teachers. There was a team of visiting Canadians who practiced English with the students, played games, did activities, and shared the Christmas Story. There was even a surprise visit from Santa himself. As a team, Imagine Thailand gives to this. From our work and personal money, we ensure that gifts are there for every child. So the Christmas Party’s success is a team win, even for those who do not live and work in Takua Pa.


For us at Imagine Thailand, the truly exciting element of this event was the increased levels of engagement from the wider community. More than our students attending, we saw a greater level of interest from community kids and a deeper level of buy-in from parents. Even the Mayor of Takua Pa gets involved. For the past 3 years he has volunteered to provide the food! Between the Mayor’s contributions and what parents brought, we enjoyed yellow rice, chicken, macaroni, sandwiches, fruit, ice cream, juice and water. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, the restaurant the Mayor had deliver the food doubled the Mayor’s order at no extra cost! All of this speaks highly of the work being done at the Centre and the depth of relationship the team is building within the community.


The Lighthouse Learning Centre team is already brimming with ideas for next year - such as using the entryway to the Centre as a stage and doing seating on the grass. This is a growing event!


On behalf of the team in Takua Pa and the Imagine Thailand team as a whole, thank you to each of you who support our work at the Lighthouse Learning Centre. If you would like to know more about how you can engage with the Centre for Christmas 2017, please contact us here (link to Te’s email).


Growing the Lighthouse Learning Centre

The 2004 tsunami killed over eight thousand people and displaced thousands more. It ushered in a new reality for Thailand's southern coastal communities. Takua Pa was arguably hit the hardest and in many ways was ground zero for the tsunami. The post-tsunami reality further exacerbates what we call the opportunity gap - Thailand’s diversifying economy is providing new opportunities, but those who live in more rural communities lack the access to training and education to seize these opportunities. Just by living in a certain place, people miss out.

Tourism has returned to Takua Pa and, like many holiday towns, the wealth often does not trickle down. Locals have developed a new working class where long days leave little time for family life. Children return home to empty houses after school. Homework is left incomplete and questions go unasked. Recognizing the need for a third space (not school and not home) and responding to requests from the local community, Imagine Thailand established the Lighthouse Learning Centre in 2008. Here students from kindergarten to grade nine come after school and have a welcoming place to play and to receive further tutoring with a focus on math, science, and English - just like students in larger urban centres. Currently the centre is open Monday to Friday for drop-in and tutoring programs and on Saturday afternoons there is a kids club program. To facilitate tutoring, students are grouped together by grade, but the centre has become rather crowded and it makes it challenging for tutors to connect with their students in the large space.

The Lighthouse Learning Centre is Expanding

To better facilitate after school learning, Imagine Thailand is expanding the centre to ensure students have a positive and conducive learning environment. Phase One of the project is nearly fully funded. We will be pouring concrete foundations and placing modular buildings (shipping containers measuring 6m x 2.25m x 2.59m) which will be modified into classrooms. At present we are completing the permit process before construction can begin. We believe that greater capacity will bring greater opportunity. The centre’s staff already have plans for a weekend club for parents to gather and do practical activities together (candle making, creating liquid soap etc). More than engaging the students, we want to engage the whole family and provide a venue for parents to build their own meaningful community.

How you can be involved

Though the purchase and installation of the Phase One containers is funded, we want to make these classrooms an impactful space. Additional funds are needed for decorations, classroom supplies, and stools. Consider having your children or your school invest in the education of other children.

In Phase Two of the expansion project we will install a third modular building as a coffee shop. The Lighthouse Learning Centre has already experienced great success as a welcoming space. A coffee shop is another expression of our belief in the value of a third space. Practically, the coffee shop will be used as a vehicle for job skills training and a platform for teaching older students about business.

For more information about the Lighthouse Learning Centre Expansion Project, or to find out how you can engage, please contact us here.


Celebrating 8 Years of Clean Water in NamTok

Nestled in the hillside about 25 kilometres outside of Mae Sot, NamTok is an agricultural community near Thailand’s border with Myanmar. Named after the nearby waterfall (literally translates as waterfall), the children of NamTok come from families where labour has become a way of life. As a migrant school for Burmese families, NamTok has to make it’s own way and cover it’s expenses. Originally opened in 2006, the school had been buying water for the then 128 students and 7 teachers. The monthly cost of this was equal to two weeks salary for one teacher. When a water filtration system was installed, it was a financial game-changer for the school and ensured the students, and the wider community, access to clean and affordable drinking water.

Pacharawan Nawaroongniran with the system she installed 8 years ago.Before NamTok, Imagine Thailand had never done a clean water project. In 2008 the Burmese Migrant Workers Education Committee (BMWEC) contacted us to help with the water situation at the school, our team was thrilled at the opportunity to help in a new way. When asked how it gone done, Pacharawan Nawaroongniran, our Country Director, smiled and said, “we just did it. Though we had never done it before, it was exciting”. Pacharawan recalls fondly the day the water filtration system was installed at the school. Along with a colleague from Imagine Thailand, she rode out to the school on her motorbike on a sunny October day. We didn’t realize then how that clean water project would spark something within us.

Eight years after installation, the school has grown to over 300 students and the water filtration system has been expanded for greater capacity and a pre-softener unit was added to better treat the water which is pumped in from the waterfall by a village pipeline. Our relationship with the school has also continued to grow as we produce and deliver nutrient rich soy milk for the students and distribute drinking cups as part of our Cups for Kids project.

As our first clean water project, NamTok holds a special place in Imagine Thailand’s heart. To date, we have installed 50 water filtration units in migrant schools within the Mae Sot area and another 10 in schools in the neighbouring region within Myanmar.

If you would like to learn more about our clean water projects or would like to invest, please contact us here.