Be the Change Network

aka "Kari's Blog"

Archive for November, 2007

Donations, Donations, Donations !!

November 30, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Donations to our sustainability challenge come pouring in from the most touching places !
From Walter in Massachusetts:

Over 60 years ago, the Nazi’s made financial ruin of Walter’s Jewish family. Today’s German government decided to make financial restitution for Nazi crimes and when Walter recieved his check he knew just what he wanted to do with it, donate it to Cambodia. “There is no restitution in Cambodia” Walter said. As the proud grandfather of two children who were adopted from Cambodia, Walter has sponsored 30 students at the Grady Grossman School this year.

From Cambodian Heritage Camp:

Last July, twenty Middle School and High School students held a class called “More Than Me” to discuss ways they could give back to Cambodia, the country where most of them were born and left through adoption into American families. It was my great honor to discuss the Grady Grossman School with them. They showed deep concern for the plight of education and the environment in Cambodia, and held a fund raiser that very evening. These teenage adoptees learned a traditional Cambodian collection dance, alongside the Chhyam Drum Team from Long Beach California, and collected over $1,100 dollars. With this donation, 10 students will be sponsored toward sustainability at the Grady Grossman School. Thank you Cambodian Heritage Camp teenagers!!

From Jim and Jill in Wyoming:

A year ago, Jim and Jill were looking for something “off the beaten path” on their Southeast Asia vacation. When Jill asked me for tips, I hooked them up with lodging and transportation to the Grady Grossman School. They endured 6 hours on a Godforsaken road and a meal of snails and unidentified meat to experience life at the Grady Grossman School, but in the end told me “that was the most moving experience of our lives.” They’ve donated the salary for three years so village leader Bun Vanna can manage our alternative cooking fuel program, effectively sponsoring 10 students toward sustainability.

From Rick and Susie in Colorado:

Longtime supporters of the Grady Grossman School, Rick and Susie Grossman, grandparents of Grady and Shanti Grossman, have pledged to support 50 students in our sustainability program this year! This will not only pay for the English teacher salary but also for the creation of a demonstration show with our music class to promote biomass charcoal briquettes in the market!

From Girl Scouts in Wyoming:

Troop #138 of Jackson, Wyoming donated their cookie sale money to the Grady Grossman School last spring. It bought instruments for our music class. Now, they are collecting shoes for Christmas. Kids at the Grady Grossman School play soccer in bare feet, with the addition of tennis shoes we give them a better chance to win and feel pride for their school. I’ve asked the girl scouts to create a scrap book of life in America, because the kids in Cambodia only see the image of America in one thing: the power of the dollar bill. I will ask our Cambodian students to make a scrap book of life in Cambodia for the girl scouts. As I’ve said so many times on speaking tours all across America, “the relationship matters as much as the money.”


Would you like to take the Sustainability Challenge? Sponsor a student toward sustainability for $100/year with a recurring donation for 3 years. Sponsor as many students as you want!Network for Good: Friend for the Grady Grossman School

Meeting My Hero

November 20, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Sometimes the Universe rewards you for staying true to your calling.

On Saturday I not only met my personal hero, I shared a podium with her. Loung Ung is the international bestselling author of First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child, and a passionate peace activist. She is now also a supporter of The Grady Grossman School in Cambodia.

Loung Ung and Kari Grady Grossman at IBARMS event in Denver.She went first, delivering a heart wrenching speech about her life’s journey from childhood under the Khmer Rouge, to American refugee, and back to Cambodia as an activist for a land mine free world. Over 150 teachers from International Baccalaureate schools in the Rocky Mountain region listened with rapt attention, their minds churning with desire to communicate these events to their students, K-12. The theme of the Denver, Colorado conference was Awareness to Action. Loung spoke to the Awareness part, and I was there to inspire Action.

Seven years ago, while waiting to adopt our son, I bought 20 copies of First They Killed My Father, and sent them to every member of our family for Christmas. Four months later, as I cradled a Cambodian baby boy in my arms, I wanted a book about the conditions in today’s Cambodia to explain why my son was a war orphan – 25 years after the war! There was no such book, and that is why I wrote Bones That Float; it remains the only narrative book out there to connect Cambodia’s history with Cambodia’s present.

It was amazing to listen as Loung’s journey reached the exact same conclusion that mine has, Cambodia needs sustainable lives and teacher support to help rural communities heal the many ills that continue to plague the rebuilding of society to this day. After showing the video of our school, I explained my vision of sustainable, school-based economic development, building a solid foundation of primary education at the grassroots level, partnered with Life Skills & Vocational training, to empower local communities with control over their educational future.

When I finished my speech, Luong gave me thumbs up and a big smile. She asked how she could help me. With her notoriety taking our awareness message to a wide audience, and mine taking our action message deep, I think we can have a powerful effect.

I am going to ask Loung to join me for the world’s largest online book discussion on April 17, 2008. A day of remorse and healing in recognition of the day the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, in the year that they are finally being held accountable for it.

Network for Good: Friend for the Grady Grossman School I will call for volunteers to join our school supporting network. Through building relationships and listening to local communities, our partners will find a way for every school to become income-generating and self-supporting in 3 to 5 years. This is a people to people endeavor and our job is to work ourselves out of a job, to usher each school to its own, unique sustainability.

Who will join us?

I Have a Dream…

November 14, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

My son Grady, Cambodian born American raised, the inspiration for both a book and a school, has a dream. He’s been studying Martin Luther King this month at his new International Baccalaureate school in Ft. Collins Colorado, where part of the first grade curriculum involves identifying inspiring “risk-takers.” Dr. King is his pick. His impersonation of “little black boys and girls holding hands with little white boys and girls” is quite dramatic, making skin color a hot topic of conversation around our house.

Grady loves to read and normally hates to write. But this assignment to write his own “I have a dream” speech flowed with uncommon ease. Here it is:Grady’s I have a dream speach.

“I have a dream that…..

I could be a inventor and a astronot. I wold make a mountain top exploder. When I be a astronot I wold fix satlites and be a IB World Student and have a happy life.”

– Eric Ratanak Grady Grossman, age 7 , Nov. 14, 2007.

A happy life. A simple dream. Utterly unthinkable for the majority of Cambodia’s children, certainly for those born into the situation that Grady was, fatherless and hungry. For the rest of the story one must read Bones That Float and then you will know why this book is dedicated to the children of Cambodia.

Grady’s dream reminds me daily why I am doing this. Simply put, I believe that every child on this planet has the right to dream and to a happy life.

This is all of our responsibility.

Network for Good: Friend for the Grady Grossman School

One Step Closer to Empowering Chrauk Tiek.

November 08, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

We are pleased to announce that the Friends of the Grady Grossman School has received a $7,000 grant from the PRBB foundation for our alternative cooking fuel training. The price of LP gas is skyrocketing in Phnom Penh and putting even more pressure on our students to drop out of school to chop down trees and sell cooking fuel to the city. What a mess. But we hope to turn the tide with the production of biomass briquettes. It’s like putting a finger to the damn but we’ve got to start somewhere.

Our old village leader, Bun Vanna, who was ousted by corrupt officials a year ago because he was too adamant about protecting the forest, has agreed to manage the cooking fuel production, stage one of The Abundant Forest Life Skills Training Center. We are excited to have Bun Vanna on board, a man with no teeth but more integrity than anyone I’ve ever met in Cambodia. We hope that this new skill will not only help economically empower the community to support education in their village, but also strengthen the leadership role Bun Vanna already holds, despite the efforts of corrupt officials to silence him.

The training will be conducted by one Sanu Kaji from the Foundation for Sustainable Technologies in Katmandu, Nepal. There are only 3 people in the fuel briquette network that I’ve found in Asia, one is a Burmese refuggee stuck in a camp in Thailand, and the other an expensive academic group from Indonesia. Sanu is our only option, and he is taking time out of his busy schedule to help us.

The Foundation for Sustainable Technologies is a finalist in the World Challenge 2007, a prize sponsored by BBC, Newsweek and Shell Corp for innovative solutions to tough development challenges. You can see his work here. Please watch the program and cast your vote for “Cooking Without Gas” to help Sanu’s organization win the prize and gain the publicity to help Nepal convert to using sustainable resources for cooking. There are 9 days left to vote. The prize is announced December 10, then we will know for sure when Sanu can join us in Cambodia.

We will be the first to introduce this low cost, innovative solution to Cambodia. Our villagers are very excited about the market potential of biomass briquettes.

Kari will be reporting the progress of the training on this blog in January. Stay tuned.

Woud you like to support the children of Chrauk Tiek in their desire to create sustainable future?
Network for Good: Friend for the Grady Grossman School

The Magical Mystery Book Tour

November 05, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Having put forth my intention that my book, Bones That Float, benefit education in rural Cambodia, I hold onto the integrity of that mission and watch the magic unfold as we attract like-minded souls. I ‘m beginning to believe that this is indeed the way the world is changed. Behold:

Philadelphia, PA. Oct. 24

I spoke to over 500 high school and middle school students at Penn Charter, an elite, private educational institution, where the dedicated staff is focusing that privilege on service learning and a passionate student body is ready to engage in helping to educate disadvantaged children in Cambodia. After a morning spent debating my experience half way around the world with the Penn Charter students, I drove 3 miles down the road to the HOPE LOGAN school in an inner city neighborhood.

Hope Logan is a “street school” occupying a creaky 5 room house, painted pastel blue on a rough neighborhood street, dedicated to educating the children of Southeast Asian refugees, K-8. Forty one of their 48 students are Cambodian. It was begun by adoptive parent Ken McBain, who was drawn by his Christian faith to offer respite from the urban jungle to a population of kids who are lost in mainstream public education to drugs, gang violence, and drop-out. I was humbled by Ken’s dedication to administer education to refugee children who fall through the cracks. Afterward, I wrote to the Penn Charter administrators about Hope Logan to suggest their service learning project incorporate this local refugee “street school” as well. What a wonderful opportunity for the children of privilege to gain a fuller perspective of the effects of war on a culture. I am blessed to be able to connect the two.

Bethesda, Maryland. Oct. 25th.

I spoke at The Barker Foundation to about 35 adoptive parents and adoption social workers, one of whom works State Department implementing The Hague Convention on international adoptions. Among the intelligent and engaged crowd was an adult adoptee, Paul Goodwin, who had been adopted from Cambodia as a child in 1975 by a foreign service employee who escaped from the roof of the US embassy via helicopter at the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover. What a humbling experience to meet someone who lived the history I wrote about.

Afterward, I was invited to speak to the office of Children’s Services at the State Department for National Adoption Month in November. The State Department employee who witnessed my presentation says “the government workers need to see that this is what adoption is all about.” I look forward to the opportunity.

North Haven, Connecticut Oct. 26th

Father Matt Lincoln at Saint John’s Episcopal church in North Haven had been reading passages from my book in his sermons for several weeks, so half the congregation showed up to hear me speak. I was honored by both the diversity of the audience and their heartfelt compassion for Cambodia’s unknown story. A woman in her seventies, Alberta Delguidice, told me she read the book twice and enjoyed it as much the second time. As a mother of two young children, I can’t imagine having time to read the same book twice, but I am honored by the attention that St. John’s Episcopal has given this story. It is a busy world afterall.

Schnectady, New York Oct. 27th

At the Open Door Bookstore, I met Lay Heng, a Cambodian woman with a most unlikely background, a graduate of Phnom Pehn University pursuing PhD. in education at SUNY Albany! After my presentation about sustainability for Cambodian Schools, she said to me, ” I love your program, it makes so much sense, what you are saying is so logical. ” She continued, “But for me, as a Cambodian, I cannot say what you are saying, it would mean trouble for my family.”

What she means is that a Cambodian cannot call a spade a spade, as I do, without fear of reprisal. I assume that the Cambodian government will not change, and stop the corruption in favor of supporting schools. Change must come from the bottom up, that is why community based economic development in support of a schools empower a local community with control over its own educational future. Ms. Heng was smiling when I told her, “you get your PhD and I’ll create s school supporting model that works, and then we’ll go to the government together!” With proven success on our side, they can’t say no.

Boston, (Jamaca Plain) , Massachesettes Oct. 28th.

A fantastic Cambodian meal was served at the Wonderspice Cafe, where I spoke to about 25 people with a passionate interest in social justice. The connection between what happened in Cambodia and what is currently happening in Iraq was not lost on them. The restaurant’s owner, Dhavi, is a Cambodian woman who escaped before the war, worked in Thai refugee camps in the 1980’s, and adopted a son orphaned by war. The soul connection we mothers feel has the power to transform the world.

George Mason University, Alexandria Virgina, Oct. 29th.

I spoke to 50 students in the sustainable tourism program, engaged in a semester project to create a business plan for the future “Green Lion” Eco-lodge at the Grady Grossman School. The students bulleted me with questions and a discussion of great ideas surfaced. They seemed grateful to work on real world problems and to be a part of positive change.

Upcoming….Nov. 17…..Denver,Colorado

I will be speaking to the International Baccalaureate regional conference in Denver, Colorado, as part of their Awareness to Action program, along with my personal hero Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father. We hope to engage students all over the Rocky Mountain region in support of Cambodian schools, working as English tutors in our future VOIP English tutoring program….stay tuned.

Who knows where the Magical Mystery Book Tour will lead next?

Would you like it to be your town? Contact me!