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Jun 17, 2020

Outreach Biochar Training has Re-started in Zomba

Biochar Training at Dowa village in Malawi
Biochar Training at Dowa village in Malawi

The virus stopped the biochar training in Malawi and Kenya, but the villages have been asking to restart. Sister Miriam Paulette applied for and won a small grant to train in 20 villages, but the grant funds have been stalled with the US government shutdowns. Your gifts provided the means to buy corn cobs from struggling farmers until they can learn to make biochar and re-start village training on June 13.  

Our team leader was joined by trainers from local organizations at the June 13 event: “Today we had Biochar Training in Dowa district. The training was graced by both men and women, Boys and Girls. In total, we had 56 men and women… We had a number of challenging questions from the participants, but  [local leaders] showed a professional understanding on the subject matter, Moving forward, I hope will discuss ideas, the sustainability of the Biochar as the group was keen to know a lot about Biochar and stay in touch with Warm Heart Malawi.”

The sisters at the Holy Carmel Family Monastery have been sewing face masks for the hospital and the local community.  They asked for additional sewing machines and we raised the money for one more.  When Sister Paulette and the Prioress went to purchase the sewing machine, the shop keeper sold them two for the price of one, since it was such a good cause.

We are also helping raise funds for an egg incubator. The monastery chickens are so healthy now from the added biochar in their feed.  The new chicks will go to feeding the children in the community. We have almost reached our goal, we need another $200 to be able to help buy the incubator.

The young man in the photo collecting corn cobs and corn stalk for biochar is called Steven and Sister Miriam Paulette considers him a son of the monastery …" one is of the poor boys that she was trying to feed when she first reached out to Warm Heart some years back….He was stranded and could not go to school due to school fees but later on, he found another way and he is now in college doing plumbing. He is [back at the monastery] because of lockdown so he is the one who is helping to carry corncobs. He is not part of the working staff and can render his services freely without inconveniencing the community. [We, the sisters,] give him little money as a gift for the job he's doing but also to support him as a poor boy who depends totally on the sisters' help." 

Your investment in these farmers and our team leaders is spreading the means to improved livelihoods, one village at a time.

Thank you for your enduring support!

Collecting corn cob for biochar training
Collecting corn cob for biochar training
Collecting corn stalk for biochar
Collecting corn stalk for biochar
Dowa village training of Trench method
Dowa village training of Trench method
Jun 2, 2020

Lockdown Does Not Mean Shutdown!

We said, “Do something to Stop the Smoke!”  Shangri-La Did!

Keeping up with Gabriele Lombardo, General Manager of the Shangri-La Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is hard. The wiry Sicilian never stops and never stops doing and doing and doing….

Warm Heart sat down with Mr. Lombardo in October 2019 to show him the terrible human and economic damage Chiang Mai’s “burning” or “smoke” season does to North Thailand and the hospitality industry, he understood immediately. When Warm Heart explained how the great hotels of Chiang Mai could stop the smoke, he said, “We will do it.”

So began the Shangri-La “Stop the Smoke” project that with Covid-19 has also become an important employment and jobs training program. Shangri-La supported the creation of two community-based biochar making businesses and bought their first 50 tonnes of biochar production. This alone gave a large number of unemployed young men in very poor villages an amazing 300,000 baht ($10,000) over two months and stopped – as in entirely kept from happening – the release of 313 kg of PM2.5, the killer component of smoke. (Lest you have a hard time imagining a kilogram of smoke, a single kg of smoke is equivalent to the smoke of 71,429 cigarettes.)

Then Covid-19 arrived.

The country went on lockdown. Tourism stopped. Hotels closed.

Hundreds of thousands of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, street venders, guides, chamber maids and waiters had no jobs. They did what people do – they returned to their home villages. But in the hot season, there were no jobs in the countryside and little food.

Enter Shangri-La.

What do you do with 50 tonnes of biochar?

Donate it, sure, but to whom?

With assistance from Aom Kwanpirom, Warm Heart Biochar Project Director, Shangri-La sought out small organizations training the urban unemployed to become farmers and either starting urban farms on empty plots or degraded soil near home. What these organizations need most is high quality soil amendment material to provide fertility to future gardens. What they need is ground biochar mixed with organic matter.

Suddenly, 50 tonnes did not look like enough biochar. Warm Heart found itself wondering how much of its own reserves were going to be needed!

Distribution started on May 29, with Warm Heart and Shangri-La staff volunteers helping with the hand-over and application.

Jun 2, 2020

School is out, Lockdown on the farm

Boys weeding and prepping the plots
Boys weeding and prepping the plots

Your investment in the farm and the children are visible in the new farm plots and the fresh vegetables we can put on the table.  We are seeing the output rising steadily and our soil is improving with use and added homemade biochar soil amendments and biofertilizers. 

The  COVID19 shutdowns started in March in Chiang Mai.  First, any child with a fever or cold was sent home and we had almost a full house because it was the weather transition for cool winters to hot spring and the child and staff were catching colds.  Luckily they were just colds and we had everyone well by the time school year ended in mid-March.  Some children went up to the mountains to help in their villages during the hot, dry school break.  We always have our core of children that stay year-round - no families to go home to; they are ours.  We were feeding about 20 people a day and then the shutdowns started at the hotels and universities. So we have leveled out at around 30 mouths to feed, 90 meals a day.  

We've quarantined anyone coming back from the cities and our neighbor is the village monitor for any visitors to the area, brandishing his thermal thermometer.  For all of April and May, everyone stayed in place and settled into a routine.

Every day the children have a schedule that includes working with their tutors to stay on top of their Thai language and math skills.  They study English with one of our volunteers and they help work on the farm. There are plenty of chores to go around with annual facility maintenance and preparing the farm for the rainy season coming in June. The clothes drying sheds were re-built, along with repairs to the dorms and bathrooms.  The gutters on all the buildings were cleaned out, along with the fish pond.  We discovered the reason for low water flow- roots had taken hold in the water pipes!

In preparation for the planting season, we've made lots of compost with kitchen scraps, leaves, clippings, and added biochar to help he process along.  In the dry months we;ve had a crop of tomatoes and plenty of eggplant and chilies and garlic.  New small plots tucked around the dorms and kitchen yield lots of lettuce for salads.  We have enough to share with our elderly and disabled neighbors and trade with other farmers.

We're all looking forward to the travel restrictions being loosened and the return of the children for the new school year due to start July 1.  

We hope you have been safe and well.  Many thanks from all the children and staff at Warm Heart for your enduring support!

Girls water the fields after school
Girls water the fields after school
Making bio fertilizer
Making bio fertilizer
Lettuce from one of the new plots
Lettuce from one of the new plots
Fixing the dorm bunk beds
Fixing the dorm bunk beds
New crop started in the blue net
New crop started in the blue net
All hands needed to clean the gutters
All hands needed to clean the gutters
 
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