UPLift--Poverty Alleviation For The Ultra-Poor

UPLift is a program designed to empower communities on the Thai/Burmese border that lack food security, opportunities for income, and education. Through the use of small grants and skills trainings, these families receive the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty without having to rely on external aid indefinitely.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Project Focus--Mae Sot, Tak Province

Mae Sot, a bustling frontier town nestled on the western Thai border with Burma, has an extremely diverse population.  It is also a relatively new home to thousands of Karen refugees fleeing from their homes in Burma.  Some of these families have just arrived in the past few months, while others have been living in one of the many officially recognized refugee camps on the Thai border for over a decade.

In addition to those with refugee status, there are many more without status of any kind.  This group is comprised of migrant workers who cross the border in search off a safe home, or sometimes enough income for their children to prosper in the future.  Without even legal refugee status, migrant workers and their families do not have access to basic health, education, or property rights.  In many cases these people find work at large factories or plantations, where labor is intensive and pay is low.

Beginning in October, the UPlift Project is initiating a school garden initiative in and around the Mae Sot area, including the Mae La refugee camp, the Umphium refugee camp, and numerous boarding houses and schools for migrant children throughout the area.  This school garden project will focus on providing food security to the students and youth of these areas.  In addition, we will be testing inexpensive methods and devices for water storage and usage during the dry season here in Thailand.

We are excited to be collaborating with Room To Grow Foundation, an organization in Mae Sot that has helped us identify the need for food security in these informal schools.  This year has witnessed a large amount of budget cuts by foreign donors due to the poor world economy at large and the neccessity to trim down operations by foreign aid and development organizations.  However, we are enthusiastic to have this opportunity to find ways to improve the quality of life for those who don't possess the means to find opportunities for themselves.

Click here for more photos of UPlift's initial visit to Mae Sot

Monday, September 20, 2010

Three Month Review

To give readers a better idea of the areas UPlift has been reviewing we've compiled this list of communities visited, as well as places we are planning on visiting soon!

Mae Yao Region, Chiang Rai Province
Huay Chompu--Akha Community. Surveyed, did not find suitable match for project.
Song Kwae Pattana--Akha Community. Surveyed, did not find suitable match for project.
Ja Dte--Lahu Community. Surveyed, did not find suitable match for project.
Doi Baw 1--Akha Community. Surveyed, currently under assessment.
Doi Baw 2--Akha Community.  Surveyed,currently under assessment.
Ban Ja Le--Akha Community.  Survey set for October.
Thoed Thai Region, Chiang Rai Province
Huay Yuak--Akha Community.  Survey set for late September.
Ja Dti--Lahu Community.  Survey set for October.
Huay Mae Kham--Shan Community.  Survey set for October.
Mae Salong Nai--Thai Government School.  Survey set for October.
A Hai--Akha Community.  Surveyed, did not find suitable match for project.
Thoeng Region, Chiang Rai Province
Pracha Pak Dee--Hmong Community.  Currently under assessment.
Mae Sot Region, Tak Province
Informal education schools and boarding houses for migrant students in the Mae Sot area  have been identified as areas for expanding vegetable garden pilot projects.
Fang Region, Chiang Mai Province
"Community 1"--Shan Community. Garden project underway, close to 2 months in .
"Community 2"--Shan IDP Camp.  Garden project underway, 2 weeks in. 
Daylight School--Informal Education School.  Garden project underway, 1 month in.
Suan Cha School--Thai Government School.  Garden project underway, 1 month in.
Ban Pha Kha--Lahu Community.  Surveyed, did not find suitable match for project.
Chiang Dao Region, Chiang Mai Province
Palaung communities have been identified as a target group, surveying set for October.

Monday, September 6, 2010

UPlift Journal Update--Pracha Pak Dee

Pracha Pak Dee is a Hmong community located in the high hills separating Laos from Thailand.  Beyond raising corn and mountain rice, farmers in this area raise pigs and grow cauliflower to sell at Thai markets on the plains of Chiang Rai below.

However, most of the poorer farmers only have enough liquidity to grow one crop of corn/rice per year.  Any farming beyond that would involve taking out a loan or finding a new source of water.

(Click here for more photos of our first visit to this Hmong village)

2 Weeks Makes a Huge Difference

Great news from Chiang Mai!  We went to visit our garden project at Suan Cha School to see how everything was progressing.  Two weeks after the planting and fertilizer trainings the garden looks fantastic.  The soil must be good, because the vegetables here are thicker and healthier than vegetables in other areas.

Nineteen students in the 3rd grade tend this particular garden.  Each student has their own row of vegetables complete with a sign showing their name and village.  This has seemed to give them some pride in trying to have the best row of vegetables.

What a difference two weeks can make...from before the project:

...to the day of the training...

...to now!

This school is important to us at UPlift because it is a perfect example of what can be done at a small school that lacks budget but has a small amount of land.  We hope to duplicate this system many times in other schools throughout Thailand, most notably in the Mae Sot area.

Full Photo Update of Suan Cha School