Saturday, Apr 27, 2013
Nate Reents from Aqueous Solutions lead a water filter workshop at Grace Garden April 22nd through 25th. The sixteen Karen participants hailed from various organizations along the border region. Over the course of the workshop, three water filter systems and two gasifiers for making the specialized charcoal were constructed. Two water filter systems and one gasifier were given to participating organizations and the remaining water filter system and gasifier are now installed at Grace Garden to the delight of all living and working on the land.
The Aqueous Solutions water filtration system was perfected over years of trial and error. The current system involves four plastic drum barrels in series. The first tank, a gravel filter, removes the solid particles suspended in the water. The second tank, a sand filter topped with a layer of helpful microorganisms, succeeds in trapping or eliminating harmful disease causing pathogens. The third tank, a charcoal filter, adsorbs chemicals such as those from fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc, that may have contaminated the water. The fourth and final tank serves as a storage tank. The whole system can filter about 300 liters per day of particle free, pathogen free, chemical free drinking water! You can learn more about the system from this white paper published by Aqueous Solutions or by checking out their website at http://www.aqsolutions.org/.
Grace Garden was thrilled to play a role in this workshop. The participants were a pleasure to teach as they were deeply engaged in the material as evident from their eager questions and quality workmanship. We wish the participants all the best as they implement their new systems in their home villages and spread their new knowledge. Thank you, Aqueous Solutions, for the wonderful instruction and UNESCO for supporting the workshop!
Institute for Village Studies and Engineering Studies Program (ESP) visit Grace Garden (training supported by UNESCO)
Monday, Mar 04, 2013
Students participating in the Western Washington University course, Discover Asia: Field Program in Northern Thailand & India, lent a hand at Grace Garden January 22nd through January 28th while visiting Noh Bo as a cultural exchange.
Institute for Village Studies is an organization dedicated to facilitating learning experiences for students and communities through service field studies. Students participating in the program conduct an independent research project while visiting communities in Thailand and India and supporting local community development opportunities. Institute for Village Studies has been bringing students to participate in efforts at BGET annually since 2004 and to Grace Garden specifically since 2011. BGET much appreciates Village Studies’ continued support for our projects.
This year, the group of seventeen assisted Grace Garden in getting a jumpstart to the New Year by accelerating such projects as expanding and beautifying the nursery, transforming our vacant composting pig pen into an occupied chicken coop, preparing the ground and collecting sand and gravel for pouring the concrete foundation for the new classroom, constructing the north perimeter fence to protect the fragile pioneer nitrogen fixing trees from grazing cows, painting bamboo shingles for the new buildings, and reinforcing the vegetable garden fence with mesh to keep out roaming chickens, pigs, and goats. The students worked so diligently and efficiently that by the end of their visit, Grace Garden had been worked clean out of materials from paint to bamboo to fence mesh to zip ties! Thank you for the fantastic work!
At the same time, seven second year engineering students from Mae La Refugee Camp’s Engineering Studies Program (ESP) came to Grace Garden for a two week hands-on workshop building a solar water heater. In addition, the ESP students got a chance to learn about natural buildings through trying their hands at making adobe bricks and pouring concrete foundation. Other minor projects included repairing swales, a rainwater management strategy for hilly terrain, and leading the American students into the jungle on a bamboo foraging expedition.
For all of these hardworking and driven students it was their first trip out of the camp since arriving up to six years ago. The students admitted to feelings of restlessness and boredom while living in the camp but also demonstrated inspiring hope and determination for a brighter future. Most insisted that living in the camp presented more opportunity for education and employment and, contrary to what I had initially assumed, were not eager to return to Burma. The more I learn about the plight of the Karen refugees, the more I realize how complex the situation is and I never cease to be amazed by the resilience of the human spirit.
Thursday, Dec 13, 2012
Grace Garden reached an important milestone this month by hosting its first training, the 2012 Grace Garden Sustainable Living Workshop! The training was held November 24th through December 7th for 20 students from the Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED) school in Chiang Mai. Two Saturday workshops were also held during this time for 18 children from Blessed Home Orphanage, in part as a teaching exercise for the NEED students.
Instructors were recruited from exemplary organization to cover different aspects of sustainable living; Instructor Tui from Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP) covered sustainable agriculture, Line Ramstad from Gyaw Gyaw taught a unit on natural buildings, and instructors from BGET presented on sustainable energy.
Lecture and discussion style class sessions held at the Blessed Home Orphanage were broken up with practical sessions held at the Grace Garden land. In the classroom, students discussed everything from sustainable agriculture to sustainable energy and on the land they built a composting pigpen, repaired a swale, harvested indigenous EM (effective microorganisms), made over 200 adobe bricks for the construction of the new Grace Garden classroom, and more!
The composting pigpen design implemented on the land by the students results in happier pigs, a regular production of maintenance free compost, and without the ordinary pigpen stench! The composting pigpen is based on a Korean design and is fundamentally different from traditional pigpens by building the floor with, instead of concrete, layered compostable materials infused with EM. The composting pigpen thus has a soft, springy floor which is much more comfortable for the pigs and the pigs are able to happily satisfy their instinctual desire to dig. This process of digging mixes the pigs' manure in with the rest of the floor materials, and EM, and after about 3 months you have a pigpen full of ready compost to disperse in your garden beds. Happy pigs, ready compost, and no obnoxious odor. What more could you ask for?
How to make a composting pigpen:
1. Mark out an appropriate sized area for the pigpen - about 1.5 square meters per adult pig.
2. Dig down 90-120 cm
3. Fill the hole with repeating alternating layers of leaves, rice bran, and salt. Water after each layer with EM infused water.
4. Construct the pig pen fence and roof with bamboo and teak leave shingles (or whatever materials you prefer)
5. Build a berm around the edge of the pen under the eve of the roof so that water cannot run into the pen.
6. Get some pigs!
Source: Instructor Tui from UHDP
In the natural building practicum, the students made over 200 adobe bricks which will be used to build the new Grace Garden classroom. To build adobe bricks, first a large shallow pit was dug in the ground. Next, water and rice husk was mixed with the mud to make adobe. The adobe was packed into wood forms and finally the wood forms were removed and the adobe bricks were left to dry for seven days. After diligently working through the afternoon, the practical session devolved into a very fun, very messy, and very satisfying mud fight.
The course culminated in a design and teaching project. The NEED students designed a garden bed for an uncultivated patch on the Blessed Home Orphanage campus. Implementing the garden offered the opportunity for the NEED students to share with the orphans what they had learned including how to prepare garden beds, supplement the soil with compost and EM, protect the soil with mulch, and care for the plants.
The workshop was a fantastic success and BGET wants to make sure to thank the instructors for inspiring lessons, Blessed Home orphanage for great meals and wonderful hospitality, Gyaw Gyaw for providing extra housing, and UNESCO for funding the workshop. Thank you everyone for making this workshop such a success!
- Experiential Learning at Grace Garden for IVS and ESP
- 2013 Sustainable Living Workshop, supported by UNESCO and Presbyterian Hunger Program
- Grace Garden Hosts Inaugural Workshop in Newly Constructed Learning Center Building, Supported by UNESCO and Presbyterian Hunger Program
- Aqueous Solutions Hosts Water Filter Workshop at Grace Garden Supported by UNESCO
- Institute for Village Studies and Engineering Studies Program (ESP) visit Grace Garden (training supported by UNESCO)