The following is a special guest post from BioLite FireStarter, Andrew Raible, founder of Kids of Kathmandu:
Jami and I started Kids of Kathmandu 3 ½ years ago to help the orphans in Nepal get a better education. As we’ve gone back time and time again, we’ve realized that providing a better, yet traditional education, is not the only path necessary towards becoming independent, productive members of Nepali society. After providing food and medicine, we’ve embarked on solar and water filtration projects for the orphanages and care houses. We’ve also realized that in the rapidly changing world for Nepal, lessons and ideas around integrity, honesty and sustainability are also important. We are beginning to partner with NGO’s that will introduce and teach concepts to the kids that are outside of the standard school lessons, ones that might normally be taught by parents in individual homes, but which are not readily available to children living in orphanages.
I returned to Nepal this May to visit our ongoing projects and to scout new projects and Nepali partners.I brought along BioLite CampStoves to share with the kids, the staffs of the houses, and the trekking and environmental groups.
The interesting thing about some of the orphanages is that because so many foreign volunteers come through the homes, the kids are exposed to many more ideas than the average Nepali child. A positive aspect of this is that the kids are beginning to understand the importance of sustainability and energy conservation.
Nepal suffers from up to 18 hours a day of load shedding, when the government allocates electricity around the country because of production shortage. The children have been brought up with a sense of uncertainty regarding light and electricity and have had no choice but to learn to live in a world where suddenly during their homework time or during dinner preparations, the lights might be shut off. Any device that can deliver reliable heat and electricity is much prized. The kids, while not fully understanding the technology behind the CampStove, love the result.
I brought the stoves, along with my friend Jai Bhandari, a founder of an ecological education co-operative and an orphanage, to several orphanages, schools and care houses. Together we explained the technology and showed the results by boiling water and charging a phone, and more importantly to the kids, creating light.
The first school and care house we visited was the Sharda Higher Secondary School about 1 hour east of Kathmandu, near the ancient township of Panauti. The Principal along with his some friends started the deaf section in their school. There are 15 deaf children from the community who live in an expansion of the public school. The 15 kids have a separate kitchen and eating area and their own classroom. We are planning on donating solar power and water filtration projects for the kids.
By the time Jai was done demonstrating the stove, I was physically shoved out of the circle as the children pushed to see the demonstration and the light shining from the stove. It was extremely exciting to see. For the deaf children, the ability to produce light is especially important. I was alone for the New Youth Childrens Development Society (NYCDS) demonstration. But thankfully this is our original project and I’ve know the kids for 3 1/2 years. With 46 kids, there is a constant need for food or tea, but we discourage the kids from lighting up the expensive propane cooker for tea as securing propane supply can be a difficult process. The CampStove, now part of the outdoor kitchen, is ideally used in place of the propane and can provide the simple comfort of a daily cup of tea.
The kids finally now have solar power, so to them, the biggest “awwww” moment was when we charged the phone. The older kids are beginning to get phones and understand the value of this feature. Teenagers are the same all over the world.
As an industrial designer, I also used this opportunity to discuss with the kids the importance of good design. We talked about the use of perforated metal to disperse the heat, the legs locking in the blower unit, the shape of the rim to hold the pots but to also allow for air to circulate from the fan, through the fire and up through the top in order to create the hottest fire possible using biomass. We discussed the many uses of the USB and the design of the Power Module.
Eco Farm is an orphanage in the Dhulukhel valley that goes beyond the traditional orphanage to incorporate a sustainable lifestyle for the children and staff. I’ve been here before and feel that Mission Himalaya runs one of the best orphanages in Nepal. Jai, my Technical wizard is one of the founders of Eco Farm. Jai brought one of the BioLite camp stoves to demonstrate to the kids in the orphanage. Eco Farm, as the name suggests, teaches the kids sustainability and sustainable farming techniques as a way to broaden their lives and experiences towards becoming productive, intelligent and responsible citizens down the road.
The entire orphanage uses sustainable energy, composting toilets, a parabolic sun cooker when feasible, and farms organic vegetables for the kids. The BioLite Campstove, which now resides at the EcoFarm for the staff to cook tea when only a few glasses are need. And will be used to teach other groups who travel to Eco Farm to learn about Eco Farm’s way of living and teaching.
Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA) is a 25 year old organization that has been a leader in educating Schools and school groups in the importance of environmental responsibility and sustainability. ECCA uses various innovative teaching techniques to help improve the quality of life through the responsible use of local resources and alternative, renewable energies to kids throughout Nepal.
ECCA has mobilized children to become community teachers in the area of sustainability, and having them bring their knowledge home to teach their parents. ECCA is continuously running programs through their center and in schools. The BioLite CampStove fits perfectly into their teachings. They now have a CampStove to help teach the kids the principles behind renewable fuels, alternative energies and good design. The stove sparked many different conversations with the kids and was an excellent opportunity to explore many ideas and concepts with them.
With Kids of Kathmandu, I am very excited to be able to connect products I use and believe in, with projects on the ground in Nepal that we support and trust. This is only the beginning.