In Thailand, water purification issues plague both local residents and visitors. When the water is not treated it can cause serious illness because of bacterias, parasites, and viruses. Many people living in rural areas and hill tribes rely on scarce water sources. In comes the Rain Tree Foundation is an organization that provides Bio Sand Filters (BSF), a water treatment system that removes pathogens and solids from water, as well as hydraulic ram pumps, that provide a steady water supply for households, farms, and irrigation systems.
Thomas Singer, Technical Advisor at The Rain Tree Foundation, explains that a single household BSF delivers up to 80 litres of drinking water which is an ideal amount for schools. Some families also share it with their neighbors. "The idea is that each family is taking care of their own drinking water needs instead of having a centralized system which, once dirty, all of the people in the village are affected," he said. The pumps are mostly used to support a whole village and in rare cases, for irrigation on farmland. In the past 7 to 8 years, the organization installed about 1.800 BSF and 30 Hydraulic Ram Pumps. Now they install around 300 to 400 BSF per year.
Singer explains that if any family member gets sick from drinking contaminated water, there is a chain effect that affects the entire household. "The child is sick and can't attend school, and the mother or father need to take care of them, while buying medicine which means high costs," Singer said. "If the mother is sick, then who takes care of the kids, the food, the firewood and the household? Plus the additional cost of medicine. Same happens if the father is sick, he can't work on the farm, therefore no time for planting, harvesting or taking care of crops." If the medicine from the village is not enough, the family has to visit the next hospital, thus adding extra costs of transportation, accommodation, food and finally hospital bills.
The organization was founded in 1992 as Program Thai Care, and was committed to helping children in need. Presently, the organization has offices in Thailand and in Germany, running projects that support children, initiatives for local coffee farmers, and even organizations that distribute eyeglasses for those who cannot afford them. Singer says that one of the secrets of handling so many different programs is to have a strong, committed team. "Projects being newly implemented rely on the community and their willingness to continue if they see a benefit and need for it," Singer said. "It will be useless if we try to implement something we think is good but doesn't fit in the people culture, environment or idea of life."
Australian photographer Kate Buechner went to Thailand to photograph the work of The Rain Tree Foundation and replays that the limitation of services caught her attention. "The area of the Children's Home project, that is run by Rain Tree Foundation, is very isolated.," Buechner said. "It was a difficult 3-hour drive via four-wheel drive to get there, and a long way from a hospital. The support the Rain Tree Foundation is giving them is life changing for the families. The water filters mean they no longer have to boil their water for drinking, cooking, and even brushing their teeth (...) I really enjoyed meeting the kids, and how positive and happy they were, despite living under difficult conditions. They were all so excited to have the opportunity to go to school and learn."
To see all The Rain Tree Foundation projects and help the institution, please click here.