“Switched On” to Solar Lighting

Written by Tom Rosen – Co-Director/ Project Manager

As I write this article on my laptop while sitting in the well-lit TBF office, I’m taking advantage of something that wouldn’t otherwise cross my mind until I receive the electricity bill. Everyday I walk around the office switching on lights (when needed, of course), and charging my computer and phone with just a flick of a switch or press of a button. Immediately, my wishes come true – a light flickers on or the office printer begins its clunky start-up noise. It’s only when electricity is taken away do I really start to appreciate it – I always feel a slight panic/annoyance at the power being out for an hour or two. I’m lucky; I’m one of the people in the 25% of the world’s population who have reliable access to electricity.

Through the use of solar power, we at The Branch Foundation have been giving marginalized peoples in South-East Asia the benefits of electricity since 2011. Just this month, we returned from a trip with The Border Green Energy Team (BGET) where together we provided 20 solar lanterns and retrofitted 3 solar-powered systems in a remote Karen village on the Thai-Burma Border.  This village is not connected to the main electrical grid and previously had no reliable access to electricity. Thanks to our supporters and the talented BGET team, over 140 residents now have reliable access to solar power. Iona and I had a wonderful experience watching BGET at work and seeing the smiling faces of residents who had just received power to light their homes. The benefits of solar power extend far beyond the actual use of the power.  The many other advantages include saving residents’ money, improving the health of those people who previously relied on candles and kerosene lamps for lighting in their houses, and dramatically decreasing the risk of fires.


News of our successful solar lighting project at Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp has crossed the Thai-Burma Border to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Shan State, Burma. We are currently raising funds to provide every camp resident at Loi Lum IDP camp with green energy.  We also hope to install a solar-powered computer at the small school so local students can improve their learning experience through information technology.

So as you read this on your computer (or laptop, tablet, smart phone…), we hope that you consider joining us on our quest to bring light and power to those living without these privileges that we so often take for granted. To learn more or donate to our solar project at Loi Lum IDP camp, please click HERE.

I wish you all  a happy festive season,

Tom Rosen.