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Grace Garden Hosts Inaugural Workshop in Newly Constructed Learning Center Building, Supported by UNESCO and Presbyterian Hunger Program

Monday, Jul 29, 2013

Grace Garden hosted a Planting Workshop for 24 orphaned refugees from local orphanage, Blessed Home, over three consecutive Saturdays, June 29th, July 6th, and July 13th, 2013. This is the first workshop conducted entirely on-site using the newly finished learning center building. The center was designed and constructed by Gyaw Gyaw, a local natural construction non-profit, which works with and for migrant communities along the Thailand-Burma border. Gyaw Gyaw employs skilled Karen workers, many from here in Noh Bo Village, where Grace Garden is located.  Groundbreaking for the learning center building began in January of this year and final touches were completed in June.  Built from natural materials including abode and bamboo, the center is beautifully designed to be both functional and aesthetic while demonstrating the many benefits of natural buildings.

 

learning center

The learning center is built from natural materials and beautifully designed to be both functional and aesthetic.

 

The Planting Workshop balanced classroom activities with hand-on learning opportunities and also involved a healthy dose of fun and games.  The first weekend session introduced the importance of sustainability, comparing the sustainability of conventional farming methods and natural farming practices, and also included a module on agro-forestry principles. Students braved a downpour to explore the Grace Garden facility and witness the various sustainable technologies used on site.

 

In the second session, the students learned about soil enhancement including how to make and use compost, EM (effective microorganisms), and bio-char. After practicing by making a human compost pile in the classroom, participants prepared an actual compost pile. The students also got a chance to release their inner pyromaniac while making charcoal for bio-char.     

 

The third session covered swales and their important role in water management and erosion control. The culminating activity, planting trees and vetiver grass along the swales, combined what the students had learned about agro-forestry, soil enhancement, and swales. 

 

Vetiver Grass

A student plants a row of vetiver grass along the swale for erosion control

 

Nick’s Guide to Tree Planting:

1. Dig hole

2. Add bio-char

3. Add soil

4. Add bio-char

5. Add soil

6. Add EM

7. Gently pull plant out of potting bag, loosen roots, and place straight in hole

8. Add soil and biochar

9. Top with EM

 

tree planting

The students learn a process for planting trees

 

As the first workshop held in the on-site learning center, the Blessed Homes Planting Workshop was a great success. Thank you, UNESCO and the Presbyterian Hunger Program for financially supporting both the construction of the learning center building and the workshop!

 

Certificates

Participants pose with their certificates in the new learning center classroom

Aqueous Solutions Hosts Water Filter Workshop at Grace Garden Supported by UNESCO

Saturday, Apr 27, 2013

water filter

Workshop participants pose around the completed water filter system. 

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.

 

multitasking

Some students check water barrels for leaks, others sift sand and gravel for the filter, and others watch over the gasifier as it cooks a batch of charcoal.

 

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/.

 

gravel

The first tank of the filtration system holds gravel to trap the solid particles in the water.

 

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!

 

smiles

Participants manage to have fun while working hard to construct three water filter systems and two gasifiers in under four days.

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!

 

nursery expansions and beautification

Institute for Village Studies students greatly expanding our nursery, adding tamarind and papaya to our ranks, and also beautified the space with artsy and informative name cards and a door sign made from salvaged wood scraps.

 

north fence

Students constructed a much needed north perimeter fence to protect the fledgling nitrogen fixing trees, currently pioneering the food forest area, from grazing cows that descend from the jungle at night.

 

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.

 

solar water heater

Engineering Studies Program (ESP) students from Mae La Camp visit Grace Garden for a hands-on workshop building a solar water header.

 

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. 

 

ESP students

ESP students demonstrate inspiring hope and determination for a bright future despite challenging circumstances.

 
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Border Green Energy Team

P.O.Box 66
Mae Sot, Tak 63110 Thailand

Office: (66) 55-534-464