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Clean Water & Sanitation

Improved quality of life can be as simple as access to safe and clean water

Improved quality of life can be as simple as access to safe and clean water

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

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. 

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

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.

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

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.

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

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."

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PhotographersWithoutBorders

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."

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

To see all The Rain Tree Foundation projects and help the institution, please click here.

Orangutan heroes of Sumatra

Orangutan heroes of Sumatra

"Mekar" had been trapped in this tiny patch of forest for over seven days. 

"Mekar" had been trapped in this tiny patch of forest for over seven days. 

This week 30-year-old female orangutan "Mekar" (lovingly named after the village in which she was found, which means "blooming") was found trapped, skinny and bullet-ridden in a small patch of forest inside a palm oil plantation for over seven days. Arboreal creatures sharing 97% of human DNA, orangutans are not able to thrive in palm oil plantations due to lack of food and tree cover, but the reality is that palm oil plantations are both a norm and a way of life in Sumatra, posing a great threat to wildlife and conservation efforts.

When critically endangered orangutans are in trouble in Sumatra, people know who to call: "HOCRU," or the "Human-Orangutan Conflict Response Unit," which operates as a part of Sumatra's leading orangutan and habitat conservation organization, "Orangutan Information Centre (OIC)."

DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders

Mekar was safely tranquilized using a dart gun. It took three tries to hit the orangutan in a tree 15 metres above ground and after she was sedated, she fell into a net held taught by the HOCRU team and the help of locals. 

Local people from "Mekar Sari" watch and assist in the rescue. 

Local people from "Mekar Sari" watch and assist in the rescue. 

Kriezna, the HOCRU Coordinator, tries to coax the orangutan into a better position for tranquilization.

Kriezna, the HOCRU Coordinator, tries to coax the orangutan into a better position for tranquilization.

A different kind of White Helmet team waiting for the sedative to take effect.

A different kind of White Helmet team waiting for the sedative to take effect.

OIC's vet, Ricko al Husein, and the HOCRU coordinator Kriezna Ketapel did a check on her vitals and found that she was malnourished with over 30 air rifle bullets riddled throughout her body and face. One eye had a bullet lodged inside, impairing her vision. 

DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders
DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders
DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders

Fortunately Mekar was healthy enough to be translocated to the national park on the same day, so the team made preparations to drive two hours to the nearest release site at the national park entrance.

Releasing Mekar to the national park forest.

Releasing Mekar to the national park forest.

Orangutans viewed as pests on plantation sites and in villages are often shot, killed, and even sometimes consumed or kept illegally as pets. Poachers are also notorious for killing mother orangutans so they can capture and sell their babies as pets to foreigners and locals where they are seen as status symbols. HOCRU evacuated or confiscated 28 isolated or illegally kept orangutans in 2016. However by educating local communities and building partnerships with local people, OIC is getting more and more calls so that these magnificent beings can have a second chance. 

DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders

Sumatra is the only place in the world where critically endangered orangutan, elephant, rhino, and tiger exist in the same ecosystem. And the largest culprit causing the need for rescues and pushing these animals towards extinction is habitat loss due to deforestation. Unsung heroes, the staff at OIC are not only the sole organization performing rescues and translocations, but they have reclaimed and reforested almost 1500 hectares of illegal palm oil plantations that encroach on conservation land, and are creating buffer zones between the national park boundaries using coffee and orange farms. Right now one of their key aims is purchasing land to create a conservation area called the "Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary" that will act as a migratory corridor and safe haven for wildlife that can not be returned to the wild. They key to their success? Involving and working with local people, government and NGOs.

If you would like to assist with OIC's "Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary" effort, you can donate here: grouprev.com/sumatranwildlifesanctuary

Images © 2017 Danielle Da Silva.


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