Burmese Refugee Project Inc

aka Kwah Dao   |   New York, NY   |  http://www.kwahdao.org


The Burmese Refugee Project is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to equipping disenfranchised communities in northern Thailand with the skills, knowledge and support to improve their quality of life and enhance their future opportunities.

The Burmese Refugee Project’s mission is to empower stateless Shan Burmese communities who fall through the cracks of international human rights law by coordinating educational programs from early childhood to university aimed at promoting critical thought, creativity and academic excellence.

We play no role in political organizing and have no religious affiliation.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Lydia Prongnamjai

Main address

℅ David Rosenthal 161 W 75th St, Apt 4F

New York, NY 10023 USA

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NTEE code info

International Relief (Q33)

International Migration, Refugee Issues (Q71)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

After-School English and Art Program

Our after-school program currently serves over fifty students who are split into four small groups. Our Executive Director and volunteer interns meet with each group three times a week to teach English literacy and creative arts lessons. On weekdays, we meet with groups for 2-3 hours. These sessions consist of a specific English lesson and activity designed to enhance the vocabulary necessary to improve students' future job opportunities and performance in English classes in Thai schools. We also foster critical thinking by using alternative methods of education rather than rote memorization typical in the local school system. During our half-day weekend sessions, students participate in a literacy lesson followed by a creative arts project or other extracurricular activity to engage their minds and bodies. This nurturing and structured learning environment is essential for our students to gain the confidence, literacy skills and critical thinking necessary to dream of brighter futures and take action to improve their own lives.

Population(s) Served

Our early childhood, pre-kindergarten program brings together students from Burmese Shan, Thai and international backgrounds to foster a sense of community and mutual respect in the local area. As the only bi-lingual school in Pai, we offer our 3-6 year old students a high quality education that fosters critical thinking and dual language acquisition through play, hands-on activities and age appropriate direct instruction.
We strive to equip students with the foundation of skills and knowledge for success both in the Thai school system and beyond. Local schools tend to value rote memorization at the expense of true learning. We hope that by our students developing a love of learning and internalizing critical thinking skills, they will have the ability to make the most of their education wherever they reside and whatever school they attend in the future. Teaching children how to question and think opens their minds and broadens their perspective, which is a goal in and of itself.

Population(s) Served

Our Scholarship Program was designed to help exceptionally dedicated and high performing Burmese Shan students access quality education in other regions throughout Thailand. Our students suffer in the local school system both because of its low quality and the discrimination they face as Shan. Additionally, many of our students are forced to drop out of school in order to support their families by working.
The Burmese Refugee Project started the Scholarship Program over ten years ago with one student. By covering her school fees, paying a small living stipend and providing personal assistance during the competitive application process and throughout her education, she was able to access the essential foundational secondary school education to gain admittance to a highly competitive university in Chiang Rai. She is now the first person in her community to enroll in higher education, majoring in Chinese and Business.
Since its inception, our Scholarship Program has grown to support 9 students - 2 of whom are currently studying in university. All except one are studying at schools outside of the local town, away from their families. In addition to providing financial support, the Burmese Refugee Project staff are available to provide guidance and personal support to our students who are required to check in each month, share their report cards and maintain a minimum GPA.
Without scholarships, these students would not be able to access the competitive and high quality education necessary to enhance their future opportunities. Their degrees open up options that previously seemed like fantasy.
The Burmese Refugee Project looks forward to seeing our first generation of university students graduate and pursue fulfilling careers, making their communities, and us at the BRP, proud.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

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Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Quality of life, specifically regarding housing, recreational activities, legal situation, job and physical and mental health, will be better, on average, then non-participants. This is assessed by self reports, staff observations and ongoing ethnographic research by staff and consultants.
-At least 75 percent of those who participated in our program for at least 3 years will have housing improvements evidenced by increased space, better and more durable building materials and increased access to toilets and washrooms
-At least 75 percent of those who participated in our program for at least 3 years report increased job security, earn a higher salary and engage in safer and more respected jobs
-All of our students have access to monthly recreational and cultural activities. All of our participants attend at least one of those social events per month.
-Each year there are decreases in community reports of alcohol, drug us and gambling.
-All of our community members have access to legal and business support.

All graduates of our programs will earn more on average than non-participants.

1. Improve access to higher quality education
Evidenced by:
- 0 school dropouts
- Support financially and socially to pursue secondary higher education
- Communicate in simple English

2. Improved school performance
Evidenced by:
- Participating students show improved average GPA after 2 years
- Develop foundational critical thinking and academic skills in early educations
- Students continue participating in BRP programming once enrolled until completing secondary schools

3. Develop opportunities for entrepreneurial pursuits
- Micro-loans for small business
- Professional support/development

The BRP has long-standing relationships with the local Burmese communities that dates back to the organization's founding in 2000. The staff and co-founders have, since, been developing a sense of community, continuously seeking feedback from community members.

Our staff have complementary skills and varied experiences that make them come together as a solid team. The Executive Director is a British national and has been living in Thailand for over ten years. With her degree in Asian Studies from SOAS, she is fluent in Thai and has a deep knowledge of issues in Burma and Thailand as well as teaching English as a second language. Our School Director has been working with the BRP for three years. She has both the academic and practical experience teaching in order to lead the school and create a positive environment for each of the students. With long-term interns, the BRP benefits from having volunteers from various backgrounds - exposing students to different cultures from around the world. Our students are able to spend time with native English speakers, which greatly enhances their language abilities, while also forging connections with people around the world - expanding their worldview. Likewise, interns come to us with different skillets, poising them to contribute in different ways to our after-school program and Banyan Center. When they return to their home countries, they are able to spread awareness of our organization and our programs thereby building an international network.

The BRP has started to reach out to others in the local community. We are forging connections with families and community members with different expertise and skills. These community members have helped us start new programs, maintain the school grounds, teach students different hobbies and navigate the complicated legal system in Thailand to become a registered NGO.

Within the year, we will be a registered Thai NGO, allowing us to be more open with our projects and recruit more volunteers. In a small tourist town, there is great potential for spreading awareness of our communities and their struggles.

Our budget allows us to maintain our three core programs - the Scholarship Program, After-School English and Creative Arts Program and the Banyan Center. We seek individual donors to sponsor each of our scholarship recipients, while the majority of our funding for the After-School Program comes from donations. The Banyan Center is primarily funded through tuition paying students and a recent grant. Our organization is lean, requiring minimal overhead. Each of our staff members take on operational responsibilities as well - teaching and counseling.

In only 2 years, the Banyan Center has proved to better prepare students in English, Thai and math than other pre-kindergarten programs in the area. Local teachers have reported that the few students who have already graduated from the Banyan Center and enrolled in Thai 1st grade outperform their Thai peers. Ongoing observation and age appropriate tests have supported that our teaching philosophy and methods have improved children's Thai and English literacy skills and basic math skills. From observation, students are more engaged with materials, able to direct their own learning and ask more questions. The students from different backgrounds, as well as their families, come together to learn and play, breaking cultural barriers and preventing stereotypes and discrimination. Ongoing analysis, as the program ages, will continue to assess literacy, math, critical and creative thinking and social skills. We plan to continue meeting with local teachers as students graduate in order to stay updated on their progress.

The After-School Program serves over 60 children, focusing on equipping them with the English language skills and critical thinking necessary to excel in school, access better paying employment and inspire them to pursue and prepare them to succeed in secondary school and potentially higher education. Reports from local teachers support the notion that our students outperform their peers in their English language classes. Report cards support this as well. Through ongoing observation and testing of our students, we monitor their English language ability as well as their cognitive development through a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Starting in May we will have nine scholarship recipients. Six of these students have gained admittance to competitive universities, representing the first in their families to dream of higher education. They worked extremely hard to navigate the grueling application process and are looking forward to studying a range of subjects from accounting to education. Each student has a unique perspective and has overcome tremendous adversity to make their families proud and prove to others in their communities what is possible with hard work and support. As our first generation of scholarship students graduate from secondary school and university, we look forward to their continuing to support the next generation with guidance and advice.

There is still much to be done! We look forward to ongoing evaluation of our programs, ensuring that we support children with the framework necessary for future academic and personal success. We look forward to enhancing our programs to meet the changing needs of our young clients.


Burmese Refugee Project Inc

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Burmese Refugee Project Inc

Board of directors
as of 6/7/2016
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

David Rosenthal

Columbia University

Term: July 2012 -

Peter Muennig

Columbia University

Celina Su

City University of New York

Rufina Lee

Columbia University

Elizabeth Charpentier

Prairie Boulmier

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No