As a boy, Dietrich Botstiber personally witnessed the suffering of civilians in Central Europe during and after World War I. The war and its aftermath displaced millions of people and wiped out many traditional ways of life. Young Dietrich saw strangers standing near his home, mute, helpless, begging for food. These vivid images stayed with him throughout his life and shaped his worldview.
Now, Botstiber World Service works to reduce poverty and malnutrition among the poorest and most marginalized of the world’s people, especially those who are at particular risk because of conflict or other cruel conditions. Botstiber World Service works with local partners to develop programs that will alleviate poverty and hunger in the short term and create the conditions for lasting economic development in the long term.
Most recently, Botstiber World Service has supported projects in Laos and Myanmar in Southeast Asia.
Botstiber Foundation and Village Focus International staff celebrate their partnership to aid pushed-back and trafficked male Lao citizens.
They are called the “pushback” people – Lao citizens who left their homeland to earn a living in Thailand, without proper documentation, sometimes conscripted into jobs of hard labor from which they could not escape on their own. Periodically, Thai authorities round up the pushback people and buss them to Lao border checkpoints where they are left without the ability to provide for themselves or their families.
In 2015, the Botstiber Foundation and Village Focus International implemented a new pilot program to help the plight of pushback men and boys in southern Laos. Drawing on the experiences of a similar program for women and girls, this new program will screen men and boys at the border to identify those who are the most vulnerable or trafficked. Those needing immediate help will be offered short-term housing and given the resources with which to re-integrate into Lao society. Those who could benefit from technical training will be able to choose from a wide variety of training programs, including farming, construction and small machinery repair.
Water and Sanitation (WASH) has been at the core of Botstiber Foundation work in Myanmar for nearly eight years of partnership with CARE Myanmar. The premise is simple – that if villagers can have adequate clean water delivered directly to their community, the impact on village life can be profound. Bringing abundant water to a village immediately frees up many hours for women and girls who by tradition are the ones who trudge to a water source and carry heavy buckets of water back home to be carefully rationed for cooking, drinking and cleaning. Abundant water means that everyone can wash themselves, their food, their clothes, and their homes frequently and whenever needed, with a very direct impact on everyone’s health.
The practical goals of the program were the following: eight villages with 425 households received eight new water systems. Five received traditional gravity flow systems, damming up small streams a mile or two away and bringing water by pipe to the villages. Three received solar powered, where solar panels drive small motors to lift water to the villages. Villages performed the labor of building dams and laying pipes, and provided locally available building materials. Botstiber Foundation provided for the imported materials of pipes, pumps and cement. CARE Myanmar staff implemented the program and organized villagers to manage the systems, collect fees and make repairs when needed.
The other element in sanitation is the provision of “fly proof latrines” for each household, and 200 household hygiene kits, which, with clean water, greatly reduce the incidence of diarrhea and related problems.
Repeatedly, the provision of abundant, clean water is the single most welcome contribution to village life that the Foundation can make.
This project improved food security, health, and economic development in Lashio Township in the Northern Shan State of Myanmar. Until recently, Lashio Township experienced crippling armed conflict, and its population continues to suffer from extreme poverty and shortages of food and water. Botstiber World Service and CARE Myanmar worked together in 24 villages in Lashio on a series of integrated projects, which included building clean water systems; distributing seeds and fertilizers; developing seed banks; constructing compost pits and sustainable demonstration farms; and offering grants for small business development and agricultural expansion—reaching approximately 1,200 households over five years.
An independent review of the project found marked improvements in daily life in Lashio. At its inception, project households spent 2-3 hours each day collecting water. Today, project households spend less than 30 minutes a day collecting water. In addition, households grow more crops, enjoy a wider variety of crops, have fewer food shortages, and experience fewer health problems than they did when the project began.
Botstiber World Service supported community-initiated development projects in ten of the poorest villages in Kachin State, Kayah State and Sagaing Division in Myanmar. The project was managed by The Metta Development Foundation, a Myanmar non-governmental organization, with a well-established program of training villagers to identify, plan, and implement small local projects to improve daily life. Villagers used funds to build irrigation systems, farms, and pedestrian bridges; start buffalo raising collectives; and diversify and increase the food they produced for sale and consumption.
The Lashio Livelihood Improvement Project worked in 15 villages in Lashio Township in the Northern Shan State of Myanmar to increase food production, diversify income generation activities, and improve access to safe water. The project reached over 5,000 people from more than 1,000 households and by the end of the project period, over 200 households received home garden training, over 200 households developed winter gardens and extended their growing season, over 400 households developed compost pits to use in farms or home gardens, over 200 households started raising livestock, over 400 households improved access to safe water, and over 800 households improved health knowledge and practice.
The Lashio Community Managed Water Project worked in 14 villages in Lashio Township to install clean water systems, build household water containers, construct latrines, and improve knowledge of water hygiene and disease prevention. The project worked with 2,800 people from over 700 households, and by the end of the project period, over 2,000 people had improved access to safe water. In addition, women and children from over 500 families significantly reduced the amount of time they spent fetching water.
The Foundation’s projects in Myanmar are based on humanitarian principles. The Foundation is strictly non-political. It takes no stance on political issues. When required, the Foundation exercises expenditure responsibility over projects in Myanmar by periodic visits to the country and financial audits of the projects.
While the Botstiber Foundation does not solicit charitable contributions, the Foundation welcomes inquiries from nonprofit organizations and individuals interested in supporting humanitarian work in Myanmar who might want to consider partnering with the Foundation in Myanmar. Foundation representatives are available to consult with donor organizations about the Foundation’s work in Myanmar. Please contact: Valerie Arapis, Deputy Administrator, The Dietrich W. Botstiber Foundation, PO Box 1819, Media, PA 19063; email: email@example.com; phone: 610.566-3375; fax: 610.566-3376