Be the Change Network

aka "Kari's Blog"

Archive for April, 2008

Rainstorms and Renewable Energy

April 29, 2008 By: Kari Category: 2008 April Trip, General 1 Comment →

By George Grady Grossman

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. April 29, 2008 local time.

Cambodia has been a whirlwind of excitement for me on this trip. First it is the rainy season so every afternoon and night it rains as you’ve never seen in the American West. One night the thunder was crashing instantly after the lightning flash. Amazingly the power in Phnom Pehn never failed. Secondly, without Kari here to be my crutch, I’ve been forced to really work on my Khmer language skills and let’s just say I’ve gotten a lot of blank stares.

Today I met with Aurelien Herail, a biomass energy expert from GERES and Tong Chantheang, the General Secretary of the Training Unit of CEDAC. Along with Yoen Soek, our Country Director, and Savin Oeun, our Program Coordinator we discussed each of our organizations missions concerning renewable energy and biomass briquettes and ways to form partnerships. GERES offers us technical skill and research beyond our expertise and is willing to help test the quality our our briquettes. Third party independent testing will be valuable for marketing our “Smart Choice Fuel” as a viable alternative cooking fuel to charcoal and woodsticks. CEDAC has expertise to help us with the development of our training workshop. Although the particulars were not worked out the basis for working together has been established. CEDEC also wants to publish out story in their quarterly review called “Green Fire.” This will be more publicity for our alternative cooking fuel as well as our model of life skills supporting education.

Tomorrow I will be heading to Chrauk Tiek to spend 4 days at the Grady Grossman School. Supposedly the roads have been fixed since our trip in January. But only time will tell.

I am excited to meet the three new music teachers and see if the new “Peter Pisay” Library is complete. And the big question is how do we dry a briquette in the rainy season.

More to come so subscribe and stay tuned.

Reconnecting with our Friends

April 23, 2008 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

We celebrate Cambodian New Year this month by reconnecting with our Friends and Supporters around the globe.

Our program is experiencing expansive growth on both sides of the ocean. After our family returned from Cambodia in February, exhausted from a month of sustainability work at the school, we considered giving up. And then suddenly, incredible things began to happen…..

During the month of January Sanu Kaji Shrestra, from Foundation for Sustainable Technologies Nepal, successfully trained the villagers in the production of Biomass Briquettes, an alternative cooking fuel made out of local waste materials. We learned the incredible challenges to building community in Cambodia, where fear and oppression remain a destructive force and where well-intended, donor-driven programs undermine community solidarity. Village leader, Bun Vanna, heads the production facility, sleeps at the school to protect it, and fears for his life if he is not able to pay the workers. We hired and trained a Phnom Penh staff to help the villagers develop the market for their briquettes under the brand name SMART CHOICE FUEL and then something MIRACULOUS happened….. the price of cooking gas in Cambodia rose 300%!!!!

Suddenly, our briquettes are very popular and we are getting calls daily from villages that seek training!
A quote from our Country Director, “Yes, we picked up 45 bags of briquettes = 2,250kg from Chrauk Tiek at this time and sold them totaling 1899kg in Takeo Province then we had 351kg left when we got back to Phnom Penh. At this point, we have now have 10 bags briquettes about 350kg leftover in PP office. Oh! yes, it feels so proud to sell so many briquettes so well in Takeo.”

The briquette program has the potential to sustain many schools. Villagers can donate waste material and then buy back cooking fuel, creating income for the school, creating jobs in the community, and reducing environmental destruction at the same time. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Next we will tackle the challenges of transportation and distribution, developing the market, organizing a training program and outreach to other schools and organizations.

That’s our new goal. To achieve it we have a new and highly experienced, 25-member Board of Advisors who will be spending the rest of 2008 growing our organization from one that supports one school, to one that supports many. Our mission will be to build a replicable model that helps local communities start income-generating businesses to support their own school in a sustainable way.

Library and Music Program
Our new facility is 75% complete. The new music teaching team consists of three teachers: music, dance, and voice performance at $80 per month for teaching 6 days a week. The importance of the music program is profound; it is the thread that rebuilds the fabric of community. We also hired a full-time librarian for $50/month, so the students have more access to the library during recess and free time.

A Medical Facility
This has been both a need and a dream for a long time. And now, The College of Nursing at Belmont University in Nashville is helping us develop a sustainable medical program, via professor Susan Talpin, who worked for 2 years training nurses at a Phnom Penh hospital. A student nurse team led by Susan will be visiting the school at the end of May to conduct a 2-day medical clinic, a hygiene workshop, train a health teacher, assess nutrition/malnourishment of the students, and gather information for long-range sustainability planning.

Book Tour in honor of Mother’s Day
Sales of BONES THAT FLOAT, A Story of Adopting Cambodia by Kari Grady Grossman remain the bow of our fundraising ship.

Come see Kari’s presentation “How a Mother’s Love Can Change the World? And tell your friends!

Friday, April 18: PHILADELPHIA: Khmer Art Gallery, 319 N. 11th ST, 6:00-8:00 PM
Monday, April 21: COLORADO SPRINGS: Poor Richard’s Bookstore, 6:00-8:00PM
Sunday, May 4: DENVER: First Universalist Church, 4101 E. Hampden Ave, 9:30–11:00AM
Saturday, May 10: FORT COLLINS: Greyrock Commons, 2265 Shooting Star Lane, 4:00-8:00 PM (childcare provided)
Saturday, May 17: SAN FRANCISCO: Holdenreid Home w/Cambodia Tomorrow, 50 Cerritos Ave, 6:00-8:00PM
Sunday, May 18: DENVER: Colorado Ambassadors for Peace, St. Francis Event Center, 1030 St. Francis Way, 6:30-8:30 PM
Wednesday, May 21: BOULDER: Huffaker Home, 801 Columbia Place, 6:00-8:00 PM
Wednesday, June 18: VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC: Courtenay Recreation Centre, 411 Anderton Avenue, 7:00-10:00PM

For complete information and driving directions see our calendar.

Would you like The Mother’s Love Book Tour to come to your town? Schedule an event for fall 2008!

Gratefully Yours,
The Grossman Family and
The Students and Teachers of the Grady Grossman School, Chrauk Tiek village, Cambodia