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    Entries in burma (14)


    An Offering of Light

    We’re big believers in the power of human imagination, and we constantly find that our customers’ ingenuity helps them put our products to good use in ways we’d never anticipated. 

    Take, for instance, Than Than Oo, who lives in Pan Taw Kyi Village in the Dry Zone. For the past five years, she’s run a small shop out of her house to support her three children while her husband works in Malaysia. With her savings, she’s purchased six of our solar lighting products. “A solar light is a one time investment,” she explains, whereas batteries were an endless drain on her income.

    Than Than Oo uses the solar lights for all sorts of expected uses: her children use them to study at night, and they also light up her shop. There’s one place in her home, however, where a solar light shines bright all night long.

    "I'm donating light to Buddha."

    She says this as she points to the S10 illuminating her family shrine. Than Than Oo is one of many Buddhists in Myanmar who include light among their religious offerings. 

    For years, Than Than Oo used to light candles around her shrine, even though it was expensive and dangerous. Household fires are all too common in the Dry Zone, where the smallest spark can cause whole villages to go ablaze. She now sleeps soundly at night, having only to press a switch to make her daily offering. 

    Pan Taw Kyi Village as a whole decided to switch over to solar for their village pagoda. During a novitiation ceremony, two families donated 6 lanterns for this purpose. There’s a twofold benefit to the new system: the lights are safer, and they also help the humble pagoda save essential funds it would otherwise use to purchase diesel. 

    While we originally anticipated that our lights would help families increase their productivity and save money,  our customers are constantly finding countless ways to use them to improve their every day lives. We're filled with a sense of wonder and appreciation to see our products integrated into intimate aspects of Burmese culture, and into one of Burma's main religions. Who knew that solar lights were so well suited for off-grid worship?


    Digging it...

    During the dry season, we fund community managed rural infrastructure projects across the country. These take the shape of bridges, jetties and footpath in the often-flooded rural delta areas, and rainwater harvesting reservoirs in the central dry zone of the country. Here are some images of our ponds in the digging stage and, after the long monsoon, full of life-giving water…


    One Two Three, One Two Three

    U Tin Saw has been a tri-shaw rider for 46 years.  In his younger days he worked as a civil servant, overseeing security at his local market in Bahan township, Yangon.  Often, as an escape from the stress of his job, he chewed betel nut and drank alcohol.

    When he started riding tri-shaws part-time he found it liberated him from the stress.  He was his own boss and he felt healthier.  He gave up the betel and the booze and he saved his money instead. 

    Now, at the age of 66, he owns four tri-shaws and a modest home for his family of 5.  He no longer ferries passengers around, but he still rides his tri-shaw everywhere to keep himself fit and strong.
    A true entrepreneur, U Tin Saw has inspired us to champion him and others like him in a series of stories and portraits of traditional Burmese trades.  We start with the tri-shaw riders of Yangon but look out for the acrobatic ferris-wheel pilots, ubiquitous betel sellers and dextrous cheroot rollers coming soon...




    Hello New Logo!



    When we started back in 2004, we were just selling pumps. Yetagon is the Myanmar word for waterfall, and it has strong connotations of prosperity. As our products are designed to make our customers more prosperous, and pumps pump water, we called the brand Yetagon, and we gave it a logo that looked industrial, strong, and kind of like a waterfall.

    Then, as the years went by, we added more and more services - farm advisory services, solar lights and product financing - but the logo really only made it's way on to products, and the name stuck there too. That was no good. Our new services weren't benefiting from the trusted brand associated with our products, and our different teams were seen to be operating as separate entities. We wanted a way of unifying everything under the Yetagon name, while still maintaining each team's individuality.

    So, we turned to our friends at Tomorrow Partners advertising agency and asked them to help us come up with a strategy. We showed different versions of the design ideas to real customers for feedback and we eventually made a choice. The final version is shown above. It still looks industrial. It's still quite strong. It's still kind of like a waterfall, if you're artistically inclined. There's a green logo for our irrigation products (as crops are mostly green. If you irrigate them right), there's a red one for rural energy (as the sun's red. it is. don't look, you'll blind yourself), there's a purple one for product financing (as purple is typically associated with wealth and opulence), and a gold one for farm advisory services (like the color of a healthy, well-ripened rice field). They make sense. And they look cool too.

    We revealed the logo change at our season launch meeting and, although no one fell off their chair in exhilaration, there was an excited whisper in the hall and one of the demos from the Ayeyarwady region said "I can't wait for this year’s t-shirts”. We’ll take it.


    The Schwab Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2012

    On September 10th, at the World Economic Forum in Beijing, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced Proximity Designs as an awardee of their prestigious Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2012!

    Selected out of over 1,000 applicants as one of twenty-six awardees, we are the first ever organization from Myanmar to be invited to join their community of 225 social enterprises, representing 70 countries around the world.

    Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din, Proximity's co-founders, travelled to Tianjin to collect the award at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions on Tuesday 11th, and we'll hopefully have some photos soon.

    Hilde Schwab, the Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, who will present the award, said of the awardees

     “The 2012 awardees are successfully mobilizing a range of actors, including governments and corporations, to effectively address urgent social and environmental challenges. It is a testament to their impact – and to the efforts of thousands of other social entrepreneurs – that social innovation is becoming a priority for decision-makers at the most senior levels.”

    We’re incredibly proud to have been selected, and the announcement couldn't have come at a better time, as we launch in to our ninth season and the sales of our most innovative products yet.

    We hope you will join us in celebrating this award, and raising a glass to another successful year of helping rural families here in Myanmar!