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Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014
Border Green Energy Team (BGET) has worked along the Thailand/Burma border since 2005 with a mission to implement renewable energy and sustainable technologies, and to demonstrate how these technologies are integral and economically viable aspects of improving livelihoods of those in need. BGET's main focus is to provide solar electricity to medial clinics and school sin Karen villages and Internally Displaed People (IDP) camps. Free Burma Rnagers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic, humanitarian service movement. FBR brings help, hope and love to people in the war zones of Burma. Ethnic pro-democracy groups send teams to FBR jungle camp bases to be trained, supplied, and deployed in the areas under attack to provide emergency medical assistance and human rights documentation.
FBR Solar Home Training at Bueng Klueng
On March 2014, BGET and Green Empowerment partnered with FBR to provide two solar energy systems including two 130 Watt panels, two 12V/105Ah batteries, one charge controller box with 2 pig tails, four DC lights and a 300 W AUVIC inverter to the FBR office in Dooplaya District (K6 HQ) and the KDHW (Karen Department of Health and Welfare) clinic in Dooplaya District. We also replaced the old batteries from the previously installed the solar systems at New Generation, JSMK (Jungle School of Medical Kawthoolei) and Lay Tong Khu village. BGET delivered 16 12V/105Ah Trojan batteries to New Generation, 14 batteries for their DC system and two batteries for their AC system, six 12V/125Ah 3K batteries to JSMK, and five 12V/105Ah Trojan batteries to Lay Tong Khu Clinic, three for their DC fridge and two for their AC system.
Prior to the training and implementation, BGET prepared all the equipment and tools for the systems, then BGET and FBR transported and delivered the necessary equipment to the FBR training site. The BGET team left from Mae Sot on the morning of March 10th, 2014 and arrived in Bueng Klung village in the evening. There were 24 participants in the BGET training that took place March 11th through March 13th. On March 11th, the training opened by introducing BGET's previous and current projects. The participants also learned about renewable energy and the process of the solar system. On March 12th, 13 participants returned to their base areas for the annual congress in Karen State. The remaining 11 participants continued the BGET training and learned the definition of energy, how solar panels work, basics of electricity, technology of solar sytem components such as battery, charge controller, and inverter, load management, using multi-meter and other tools, testing, and system demonstration on how to install the system properly On March 13th, the participants practiced installing solar systems lead by BGET trainers.
There are a lot of clinics and schools located in ethnic states in Burma that are in need of healthcare support, education, and electricity. BGET hopes to collaborate again with FBR to improve those areas in the future in order to decrease lack of electricity, education, and healthcare. Please visit http://www.bget.org and http://www.freeburmarangers.org to learn more about our past projects and the way we operate.
Friday, Jan 31, 2014
Fourteen American college students from Institute for Village Studies (IVS) and seven Karen post-secondary students from Engineering Studies Program (ESP) in Mae La refugee camp visited Grace Garden in January for experiential learning.
IVS and ESP students work together on Grace Garden site development projects.
IVS offers a unique study abroad experience through Western Washington University, USA, that combines enriching cultural experiences, opportunities for exploration and adventure, and service work on local community development projects. IVS has been visiting Grace Garden annually as part of the course since 2011. ESP is a specialized school in Mae La refugee camp teaching engineering principles from mechanical engineering to CAD computer drawing. BGET has maintained a strong relationship with the school since 2004 with ESP students participating in BGET renewable energy installations including micro-hydro, solar, bio-gas, and solar cooking. ESP students have visited Grace Garden three out of the last four years for hands-on engineering for sustainable living workshops.
These two student groups stayed together at Grace Garden for one week, January 20 – January 26, 2014, to learn by doing - interacting with the students from the other group, contributing to work projects on the Grace Garden site, and witnessing the efforts of other local organizations. After the IVS group departed, ESP stayed on at Grace Garden for another week for practical engineering projects for sustainable living.
"My favorite work station was the nursery. It was really cool learning to work with a machete and seeing everything bamboo can be used for. I also just felt like a ninja boss chopping up the bamboo."
Over the courser of the first week, IVS and ESP students worked together at Grace Garden to make adobe bricks to be used in constructing the dormitories, set up a cane ball sport court, construct a tree nursery, and make a natural fertilizer called bio-char. "My favorite work station was the nursery. It was really cool learning to work with a machete and seeing everything bamboo can be used for. I also just felt like a ninja boss chopping up the bamboo," one student shares. "My favorite work station was the adobe," another student explains, "becuase I know our work is going to be used to make something amazing."
"My favorite work station was the adobe...because I know our work is going to be used to make something amazing."
IVS and ESP students also visited other local organizations to learn about the diverse efforts being conducted in the region to address the needs of the people fragmented by 60 years of civil war in Burma. In addition to hearing the testimony of BGET and SunSawang, students worked with natural building non-profit, Gyaw Gyaw, visited local Blessed Homes Orphanage, met with students from Noh Bo Teacher Training College, and toured Noh Bo Academy. IVS students especially were both inspired by the great work being carried out but also daunted by the challenges of the situation slowly revealed to them. “Some of the things I’ve heard are lying heavy on my heart because of the Burmese government and how the Karen people are treated, but I’ve been channeling that for inspiration,” an IVS student admits.
Students hear from Ole Jorgen Edna, founder of local Blessed Home Orphanage.
The overwhelming highlight of the week was the opportunity for the IVS and ESP students to build friendships by working, eating, sleeping, and hanging out side by side. “I really enjoyed getting to know and spend time with the ESP kids,” an IVS student shares, “We laughed, sang, played games, and learned about each other’s cultures which is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
"Getting to know and spend time with the ESP kids...is something I will cherish for the rest of my life."
The IVS students departed from Grace Garden after one week, but the ESP students stayed another week for a workshop in practical engineering for sustainable living. The ESP students completed two engineering projects over the course of the week for local beneficiaries. The first project was a specialized charcoal gassifier that is used to create highly porous charcoal for use in water filtration systems and also for bio-char. The gassifier was fabricated for a new high school across the border to enable the school to build their own water filtration system. The second project was constructing a solar water heater for a local family.
ESP students fabricate a specialized gassifier, a device used to make highly porous charcoal for water filteration systems, for a local high school.
ESP students were eager to use their classroom engineering skills on hands-on engineering projects. They were almost equally eager for any excuse to leave Mae La refugee camp. These students have lived in the camp for up to seven years and only one admits to leaving more than once since arriving. For Paw K’ Paw, coming to Grace Garden was her first time leaving the camp since her arrival three years ago. She shares her excitement of venturing outside the camp after so long, “We are like birds in a cage [in Mae La refugee camp], but now we are flying!” she explains, emphasizing her words with flapping arms.
ESP students construct a solar water heater for a local family.
Most of the students chose to move to the camp for the educational opportunities, leaving their families behind in Burma. These students live in large dorms with up to 150 other students who attend one of the dozen or so schools in the camp. One student, who lives in the camp with his family, fled to the camp seven years ago for safety after some family members were killed by the Burmese army.
Next steps are unclear for many of the students. Two students quietly expressed a desire to return to Burma while others vehemently declared they will never go back. “I want to go back to Karen state, but I lost my Karen state. Karen state only [has] Burmese soldiers,” an ESP student laments. But, without UN registration, opportunities for remaining in Thailand or settling in a third country are limited.
Overall, the combined IVS and ESP training at Grace Garden was a great success. Capturing the sentiments of training, one student summarizes the experience, “I really enjoyed this last week at Grace Garden and Noh Bo village. It was enriching, fun, moving, and inspirational.”
"I really enjoyed this last week at Grace Garden and Noh Bo village. It was enriching, fun, moving, and inspirational."
Friday, Nov 29, 2013
Grace Garden hosts its largest workshop to date, the 2013 Sustainable Living Workshop, for 21 students from Wide Horizons (WH) post-secondary school and 34 students from local Noh Bo Teacher Training College (TTC). Both lecture and practical instruction, as well as lunch, was conducted on the Grace Garden site using the new Learning Center building built by local non-profit, Gyaw Gyaw. Instructors from BGET, Gyaw Gyaw, and SunSawang provided training on sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and natural buildings, as well as on special topics including social entrepreneurship and water filtration. Naw Wahnaymoo Kay, a student from Wide Horizons, writes about the experience:
On October 14th to 18th 2013, we WH students including two teachers had a great opportunity to attend Sustainable Living training at Grace Garden in Noh Bo arranged by Border Green Energy Team (BGET). Noh Bo is a small Karen village which is located near the Thai-Burma border surrounding by the mountains and close to the bank of the Moei River. It was the first time we got a chance to go outside of Mae Sot. It was a very exciting trip and all of us were full of happiness. BGET welcomed us and provided a place to stay and food for us.
On the first day, when we arrived we stayed in Blessed Home boarding house. The same day at night we had games, activities and fellowship with BGET staff. The training was set in the Grace Garden belonging to BGET. The training took three and half days and three organizations BGET, G’Yaw G’Yaw and SunSawang participated in giving the training to us. The training was about sustainability, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, entrepreneurship and adobe natural buildings. The goals of the training were how to live sustainably, how to convince our community that sustainability is important. The training was divided into both theory and practice.
The first day, we started to learn about sustainability and sustainable agriculture. We learned how to make natural soil enhancement, compost, bio-char, and effective microorganism (EM). In the afternoon we practiced all these. The second day, we learned about renewable energy and how to use micro-hydro and solar energy. The third day, we learned about entrepreneurship. After that we had group presentations about social entrepreneurship and how to make projects beneficial to community. The last day, we learned about adobe buildings and after that we applied how to make the adobe. We were not the only participants. Teacher Training College (TTC) students attended the training with us for two days.
When we stayed in Noh Bo village, we had time to make strong relationships with the orphanage children and TTC students. The children were incredibly polite and friendly. We made friendship with them by playing games, singing songs and doing activities together. TTC is focusing on teaching skills and management skills. That was a great opportunity for all of us to build our relationship between WH and TTC and also including BGET staff there.
The Noh Bo trip brought us a lot of brilliant experiences and practical knowledge about sustainable living. This training is very useful for our community in the future. The training information that we got, we would like to share and apply it to our community because it is helpful for our community to know about the sustainable living and sustainable agriculture. Everything that we learned from BGET not book knowledge.
One of our friends said “It was a wonderful trip and I would like to visit there again. I enjoyed swimming in Moei River and having exchange with TTC students.” In conclusion, we would like to say thanks to BGET, G’Yaw G’Yaw, SunSawang, TTC, and the orphanage children. It was a meaningful trip for all of us and we gained a lot of practical knowledge and experiences.
A total of 65 students participated in the 2013 Sustainable Living Workshop
- Social Entrepreneurship Trainings with Visiting Instructor, Mark Rheault, Supported by GDF Suez and GLOW
- Sustainable Living Skills Training at Grace Garden for MHEP and joined by Noh Bo Academy supported by GDF Suez and GLOW
- An Intern's Perspective by Eindra Kyi
- FBR Solar Home Training at Bueng Klueng
- Experiential Learning at Grace Garden for IVS and ESP