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.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Financial Literacy Skills for Burmese Migrants

KLDF has begun its second year of providing financial literacy trainings for Burmese migrant women in and around Mae Sot.  A unique set of informal community trainings designed to give simple and effective methods for money management are now being implemented with a group of migrants working in a cattle yard / market outside of town.

What Are These Financial Literacy Trainings?
This project began in 2011 when Khom Loy competed in Project Inspire, a social entrepreneurship project created by U.N. Women Singapore and Mastercard Foundation.  After winning a USD$10,000 Financial Literacy Project grant, Khom Loy then worked with local partners in 2012 to deliver a full set of trainings at a landfill (dump) community in Mae Sot.

The set of trainings consists of five different topics:
  • Market Session (an interactive game that simulates an average day for women in which they need to manage money to balance their lives between work, home and opportunities for the future.)
  • Money Beliefs/Goals
  • Savings Planning
  • Household Budget Planning
  • Time Management / Time As a Value
These are informal trainings, meaning that they rely more on facilitation and activities than a formal classroom setting.  In addition, they take place in small groups in the community itself, rather than a large meeting-type setting.  This gives participants less anxiety about attending the training, and more confidence when sharing their own experiences and opinions.

We have both English and Burmese language manuals for this training.  To see a copy of these modules, feel free to email Mark (mark@khomloy.org) for more information!

Community Partner (Wide Horizons)
Wide Horizons School, a  learning center set up by World Education Thailand, has 24 students each year who study project management skills, theory and use an intensive English language program to improve their abilities.  Upon completing one year of study, they then each return to work for a local NGO or CBO working with different ethnic groups from Burma.

Wide Horizons students fill a very important role in the Financial Literacy Projects by serving as community trainers.  After receiving the course themselves (along with some training and tips on how to be an effective trainer) from Khom Loy staff, they then adapt the modules for use in the community and split into five smaller groups that cover five different areas of the community on five different days.  Each Wide Horizons student takes responsibility for trainings + decision making + logistics for their given group on any given day.

Upon completing the five days of community trainings, we hold a celebration dinner to give words of encouragement and motivation to the participants.  After this, Khom Loy staff then plans to make frequent visits to the five different community areas for the rest of 2013 in order to give the women technical support on their own savings plans.

Last week (January 7-11) was the Wide Horizons in-school training and module adaptation period.  The trainings in the cattle yard community began this past Tuesday, January 15th and run until the end of next week, January 25th.  We will keep you informed with photo and video updates as we compile them!

We would also like to thank the generous support from U.N. Women (Singapore) and World Education Thailand for funding portions of this year's training.  We are grateful for you to be interested in promoting women's empowerment and financial literacy on the Thai/Burma border!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

December Monthly Report

A pair of students in the garden at Min Ma Haw School

Teacher Preparation Center (TPC) Activities
The Teacher Preparation Center is an adult training program run by World Education and the Karen Teachers Working Group (KTWG), a support organization working with hundreds of schools inside of Burma. Khom Loy will be assisting them with the setup of several training programs for their participants.

After some shifting of schedules in December, we have a plan with TPC to set up both agricultural and pig rearing training centers at the school.

The centers will be used to train TPC’s annual group of teachers from several border regions in Burma, so that that they can implement cost-effective programs in their communities that use local resources and innovative techniques to produce strong results.  After initial technical support and training from Khom Loy, TPC staff and administration will then build their own capacity in order to train future groups of students beyond 2013.

The garden program, which will consist of Khom Loy’s school garden trainings and project setup, will take place in early January 2013 and continue through the month.  We have a tentative plan to spend Jan 2-4 at the school, giving basic conceptual trainings and also delivering the initial tools and materials needed for setup.

The pig program will follow at TPC later in 2013.  Global Neighbors, a Canadian NGO which owns the land which TPC is set up on in Mae Pa subdistrict, Mae Sot district, Tak province, has given us special support by agreeing to provide some of their land near the school to set up a demonstration plot for the KLDF integrated pig rearing program.  We will have further discussions about this process in late January 2013.

Garden Projects
School garden projects are being designed and implemented by KLDF at migrant learning centers in and around Mae Sot, Thailand.  Funded by  Thai Children’s Trust in the U.K., these school gardens are focused on producing supplemental sources of nutrition for boarding house students who are currently feeling the squeeze of departing donor support on the border due to the transition of leadership inside of Burma.

A raised garden bed that displays levels of materials to make strong compost (dry leaves, green grass, topsoil, cow manure)
Parami – Parami’s school garden has successfully transitioned to become independent (meaning that KLDF staff will continue to visit and assist with problem-solving, but only when needed).  Thanks to their strongly experienced staff and well-managed student groups, they have five different garden areas operating on their schools grounds.

They are currently having an insect problem in two of their garden patches involving white grub larvae that bore into roots and plant bodies, leaving plants to decay or contract different types of rot.  We are looking into this now; at the present it appears that short of expensive solar bed cover equipment or parasitic nematode supplements that cannot be found in the local area, chemical insecticide is the best way to proceed.

Love and Care – Great results from Love and Care, including: a pumpkin patch going down a steep slope, good results from the beans, cucumbers and radish in their multi-cropped raised beds, a gourd stage in a tucked-away corner of their teachers’ boarding house, and a newly constructed raised bed area in the bottom-rear area of their land which is made of old banana stalk!

The main challenge for Love and Care in December was a sudden water shortage from their piped water supply.  The temple which provides this water source (further up a hill on the highway leading from Mae Sot to Tak) is having some sort of problem involving piping that is related to the ongoing construction of the new highway.

As a result, the school has been depending on a stream across the highway from their school for their own personal water use (showering, cooking, etc).  Students take a large plastic barrel suspended on a bamboo pile and run across the highway several times each morning and evening in order to get their water.  We are checking for updates to see if we can help this situation by speaking with the local Thai government about the issue.

Min Ma Haw – This equivalent of a high school located in Tong Taung neighborhood (a veritable “Little Burma” in Mae Sot!) made incredible progress during their first month of activities for the garden project.  Using a squared plot of land donated for use in-kind by the Thai village headman, they have constructed 20 raised garden beds, a bamboo trellis stage for gourds and vine plants, and are currently working on a compost building to improve their own local supply of compost and humus.

Planting has begun in 10 of the raised beds, due to a shortage of purchasable top soil in the Mae Sot area.  Once we can find more topsoil, then the second batch of raised beds will begin operation.  In addition, Min Ma Haw now has 11 new papaya tree saplings being grown on their school site!  This will provide a steady and nutritious snack for students at the school in addition to the vegetables they will be producing.

Pig Projects
This program involves the fermentation and utilization of local materials (like banana stalk and bamboo spore) to make commercial pig rearing less expensive and more effective, as well as producing large amounts of organic compost for use in local farming activities.  This concept not only reduces debts and losses for local farmers, but also reduces the amount of chemicals being used in everyday farming.

Thoo Mwe Khee – The pig program here, originally set to end in December, is delayed due to low weight gain from the eight pigs being raised.  This is due to several reasons – three of the pigs seem to be stunted, while the other five did not benefit from an initial 100% diet of fermented banana stalk (FBS).  After having changed our plans in regards to the amount of FBS being used, the five larger pigs are now on a diet of half FBS, half store feed and are progressing well.  They are set to reach a target weight of 45-50 kilograms in early February.

Feed Research – KLDF staff have been looking into the possibility of testing and using FBS that is treated with dried chicken manure in order to boost protein content.  This theory has been used in Vietnam, adding chicken manure to fermented sweet potato vine and other supplements to increase protein by 6%.  We are considering running a test with banana stalk instead of sweet potato vine at Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai in order to see the results.

Financial Literacy Trainings
Originally stemming from KLDF’s successful USD$10,000 grant from UN Women (Singapore) and Mastercard Foundation, the financial literacy training program is going into its second year of operations.  Using a set of informal trainings that give Burmese migrant women strong skills in money management and savings, KLDF staff has created a useful and fun way of tackling the problems involved with savings for impoverished families.

KLDF kicked off its new round of the financial literacy training by visiting Wide Horizons, a project management school for talented young adults from Burma.  These 24 students will receive the skills and abilities to serve as trainers in a Burmese migrant community of women in January 2013.

Ko Lynn, our programs officer, was also able to finalize his preparation work in choosing a migrant community for the upcoming project.  The community is located in a cattle market that has weekly shipments of stock from Burma that is sold inside of Thailand.  There are two separate migrant communities living and working in this area: an ethnic Karen group, and an ethnic Burmese Muslim group.  We are happy to report that we can work with both during the upcoming training!

Good Morning School – Organic Fertilizer Training
On December 4th, Win Ko and Mark from KLDF visited Good Morning migrant school in Mae Pa to give a technical training on producing indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) for use in pig rearing and gardening.  These IMOs are made from local materials and can improve pig/poultry health in addition to improving soil.  Good Morning has been having issues arising from the smell of their pig pens, and wanted to solution to these without having to dismantle their existing cement pig shed. 

We will perform a short follow-up in January to see how things are progressing.

Plans for January
-Nu Poe/Bang Kle visit
  • Win Ko and Mark will visit Nu Poe refugee camp in mid-January to meet with various local groups inside and outside of the camp.  The focus will be to survey and assess a border town called Bang Kle, to see if it can serve as a suitable focal point for pig and garden projects in Karen communities on the Burmese side of the border.
-TPC Garden Training and Project Initiation
-TPC Pig Project setup
-Financial Literacy Training at Wide Horizons, Jan 7-11
-Financial Literacy Trainings 1-5 at Cattle Yard Community, January 14th to the end of the month
-Continue School Garden Work at Min Ma Haw/Parami/Love and Care
-Follow Up on Sewing Product Development at Help Without Frontiers (HWF) clothing workshop
David Williams (TPT funding group)
Paul Hancock (Khom Loy founder)
Patricia Solar (Khom Loy founder)
Walter Dewe (Visitor from Australia)
Mark Del Greco (Peace Corps Volunteer)