Be the Change Network

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Archive for September, 2008

Glenwood Springs Post Independent – article by Stina Sieg

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

Glenwood Springs Post Independent by Stina Sieg

Woman establishes school in Cambodia

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — In an act of charity, it takes real love to empower people, rather than make them depend on you. Kari Grady Grossman has come to understand that.

The reason why is quite a journey.

In 2001, she was a freelance journalist, working for the Discovery Channel’s website and living in the mountains of Wyoming. These days, she’s a Front Range mother of two adopted children, an award-winning author and founder of a successful school in her son’s native home of Cambodia.

“To be honest with you, I’m kind of in awe,” she said.

She’s not the only one.

Her recent book, “Bones That Float: A Story of Adopting Cambodia” has won several accolades, and Grossman herself has been named “Peacemaker of the Year” by the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She’s given presentations across the country, and thousands have bought her memoir. People seem eager to hear her story. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a simple one to tell.

Her connection to Cambodia began when she and her husband, George, wanted to start a family and faced infertility. World travelers already, they thought of international adoption immediately. Grossman liked the idea of being part of some distant place.

“You’re not just American anymore,” she explained. “You’re Cambodian-American. You’re Indian-American. You’re really connected with your child’s history.”

She completely took that to heart.

After adopting Grady, now 8, from an orphanage, she learned about his country’s complex history, about the abhorrent acts committed by its government and the role our own government had there. What she saw was a corrupt, war-torn nation, and she just wanted to help. Full of empathy and good intent, she started up the Grady Grossman School in a small, mountain town and began a nonprofit to support it. For years, she acted mostly in a fundraising capacity. Her efforts were valiant, but something was missing. She wanted more for these people.

“It wasn’t very empowering for them to depend on a nice girl in Colorado to raise money for them,” she explained, “And (what) we really needed to do with that community was empower them to support their own school.”

What she was dealing with was a culture so used to foreign aid that its citizens felt entitled to it. It was frustrating for Grossman, as she wanted these people to feel they could help themselves. At Grossman’s school there were constant absences of both teachers and students, and some of the surrounding areas were completely deforested, as the trees were cut for fuel. The two issues might seem divergent, but they weren’t. It all stemmed from an economic and social depression, one that discouraged any form of creative problem solving. These people didn’t feel ownership over their own lives, and they’d been scared into silence about it for years by their government. They were desperate and had no idea how to make things better.

So Grossman decided to shake everything up for them.

These days, the Grady Grossman School is completely different than before. Teachers want to be there, because they’re compensated extra for their attendance. The town’s environmental nightmare has been squelched, as Grossman found the residents a way to make briquettes out of waste instead of using wood. The manufacturing of this burnable material generates income, as well, which helps the residents stay afloat, and allows more kids to stay in class. Instead of just being given funds, people have to work for them. If they want a library or some other addition, they have figure out how to pay for it. Slowly, the people who want change are taking over the reigns of their lives — economically, socially and educationally.

Strangely, by making the villagers more fiscally accountable, it’s as though Grossman’s setting them free.

“Our mission is to empower communities to sustain schools through economic development,” she said, adding later, “We’ve kind of stumbled on a real answer.”

In America, her nonprofit, formally known as Friends of the Grady Grossman School, is now Sustainable School International. As she sees it, this is a totally new way of running a charitable organization. She can’t help but want to spread it far and wide. But, of course, when it comes to dealing with people, nothing is cut and dried. Though her family moved to Fort Collins to be closer to a major airport recently, Grossman can’t always be in her adopted village to oversee things. She has Grady and her 4-year-old daughter, Shanti (from India) to take care of. In her absence, all kinds of things can happen. People can make mistakes and argue and use poor judgment. They’re human. They are what makes Grossman’s efforts so complicated and trying — and absolutely rewarding, too. This is really about people, after all, not the schools.

“You’re telling them you believe in them,” she said.

And that’s what makes all this possible.

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Floating bones
In Cambodian, the expression “bones that float” means “the sacred that rises above the suffering.” It’s also the title of Kari Grady Grossman’s memoir and historical look at Cambodia. In 2001, Grossman adopted a little boy from the country and decided to establish a Cambodian school, which a portion of the proceeds from her book funds. She’ll be speaking about her experiences, reading from “Bones” and showing a documentary film produced by her husband, George, at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 413 Ninth St. The presentation is free. For more information, visit Grossman’s website at www.bonesthatfloat.com.

Asian Avenue Magazine – Book Review

September 15, 2008 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Asian Avenue Magazine – August 2008

Written By Derek Brou

Asian Avenue Magazine - August 2008Bones That Float: A Story of Adopting Cambodia sets out to tell the story of Kari Grossman and her husband George, an American couple who, frustrated by their own reproductive limits, begin a journey into the wide and seemingly pointed universe to adopt a needy Cambodian boy living in a Phnom Penh orphanage. It is a powerful tale (as you can guess from simply reading the PR blurbs); An international adoptive mother gains more than the child she prays for, but an entire country, its history, its culture, its utter poverty and its deep-seeded social problems. But this book accomplishes much more than that.

In the world inhabited by Kari Grady Grossman, spirits hover, and visions of a magical, interconnected and immeasurable life-force guides and haunts this earthly existence. It is a beautifully crafted glimpse into the emotional and spiritual tensions that motivate every decision in human experience. What Grossman learns on her long and arduous journey is as ineffable as spirit itself, as fleeting as smoke. She does an outstanding job of describing the indescribable through her loving recreation of the facts (both physical and emotional), painted in broad strokes, until what is left is merely a residue of something seemingly as simple as the meaning of family, but more complex than human language can approach.

As Grossman struggles with matters of conscience, she is fearless in her storytelling. She sends her prayers for a wider understanding out into the universe, seeks in every corner of her own psyche, and remains undaunted when the answers turn out to be more difficult than the questions ever were.

Bones That Float has garnered impressive and well-deserved national attention with the presentation of two prestigious book awards: The Nautilus Book Award and the Independent Publishers Award. But what might be most impressive about Grossman’s efforts is the noble purpose that book’s proceeds go to promote. Because of the ties they have formed with their son’s native land, this couple feels an irrepressible sense of responsibility to the country that placed this human treasure into their hands. She and her husband have consequently created a school for underprivileged children in Cambodia.

The Grady Grossman School is named for her son, Eric Ratanak Grady Grossman. Located in an isolated rural village, the school educates nearly 500 children annually, with the main goals of the school being to give these children a strong primary level education, and in the process, to teach them ways to use their environment to sustain themselves without destroying it in the process. It is a book you’ll readily embrace, and a cause you will be inspired to support. Kari and George were recently named “Colorado Parents of the Year” by the Colorado Parent’s Day Council, an a liate of the American Family Coalition.

Bones That Float
is available at the book’s website, www.BonesThatFloat.com, or at your local bookstore, or through various online merchants (though buying direct from the website assures that more funds go to the school). ISBN-13: 978-0-9792493-0-3. It retails for $24.95 Hardcover.

Written By Derek Brou
Asian Avenue magazine

World Action Group – Zac Whyte

September 04, 2008 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

World Action Group welcomed independent author Kari Grady Grossman to Courtenay, British Columbia in Canada on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008. Zac Whyte of World Action Group interviewed Kari and George Grady Grossman after the event.

Kari Grady Grossman – “Giving” – World Action Group

“Peacemaker of the Year award winning author Kari Grady Grossman penned, Bones that Float – A Story of Adopting Cambodia, and is taking international development philosophies to the next level. Her work is inspiring everyone around her to be the change they want to see in the world.” —Zac Whyte, World Action Group