People who know me know that I take on many projects. Sometimes with considerable success, sometimes getting nowhere. One of my main accomplishments was setting in motion the restoration (currently happening thanks to much help!) of the last surviving synagogue in the town of Rezekne in Latvia where my family came from.
Now I want to revisit a project I have been working on for awhile: the Abayudaya Solar Stove project. The idea is to provide solar or high efficiency cook stoves to a community in the Mbale region of Uganda that includes Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. These communities were once at odds with each other with the Jewish community in particular being persecuted...in fact Idi Amin nearly wiped them out.
Since then, the Jewish community (called the Abayudaya) has focused on projects that bring benefits to all members of the area whatever their tribal or religious affiliation. For example, school lunch programs for schools that cater to all religious groups. And they have started a coffee cooperative that involves and provides income for all members of the community. This is an example of cooperation among diverse people in a part of the world that has all too often fought over their differences.
Just far an "awwww" moment, here are some of the Abayudaya children singing (sorry if there is an ad before the song):
While reading about the Abayudaya I noticed that they have a problem that afflicts many communities around the world: the use of cook stoves that use large amounts of wood or charcoal and fill the women's lungs with smoke, causing endemic respiratory problems. Efficient or solar cook stoves are ways of providing better technology to a community, reducing deforestation, and improving women's health. I have decided to try and bring this improved technology to the Abayudaya and their neighbors. I have established a collaboration among three key organizations: Kulanu, Jewish World Watch, and Solar Cookers International and we have accomplished our first goal and I am asking your help in funding the next phase.
I have divided this project into three phases, each of which has a defined goal that will be of benefit even if the other goals are not accomplished.
Phase 1 has just been completed. This was the simplest: providing a computer and internet linkage for the Abayudaya Women's Association, who will be my contact group in the community for the other two phases. Kulanu, the organization that has been helping me with this project, recently delivered a computer and modem and I have since been in direct touch with Norah Nantabo, the president of the Abayudaya Women's Association. We have now been discussing phase 2.
Phase 2: provide efficient and/or solar cookers for one or more local schools or health clinics as a way of introducing the technology into the community. I am discussing the technical aspects with the executive director of Solar Cookers International and she has outlined a good approach to meeting the cooking needs of local institutions like schools while improving women's health and environmental impact. Norah has identified two schools and one health clinic which will be our first target locations for this project.
Phase 3: if community interest is sufficient and the benefits clearly established in phase 2, we will begin to provide efficient and solar cookers to individual families that want them. This phase I imagine will be a bit in the future since even phase 2 is a bit ambitious since I am currently the main driving force.
Norah and I have identified two schools and one clinic to start with: Semei Kankungulu High School, Hadassah Primary School, and the Tobin Health Centre. Norah and I also are discussing the actual cooking needs (e.g. breads vs. beans and rice kinds of meals) and the numbers each location will be cooking for. Even while I am working out the technical details both of cooking needs and stoves required, I want to start the process of raising funds. There are two things I will be raising money for right now and I invite all of you to give if you can: (donations through Kulanu are fully tax deductible)
1. Abayudaya Solar Stove Project: Hadassah Primary School
This will be the first school we want to provide with cook stoves. To donate to provide clean, efficient cook stoves for a school catering to 5-13 year olds, please donate through Kulanu here:
IMPORTANT: under Gift Information, please designate "Other" for the Fund you want to contribute to, and in the comment section please request that the money goes to the Abayudaya Solar Stove Project, Hadassah Primary School Fund.
2. Abayudaya Women's Association Internet Fund:
This will pay for monthly internet access for the Abayudaya Woman's Association, allowing better coordination with them on the solar stove project. Please donate through Kulanu here:
IMPORTANT: under Gift Information, please designate "Other" for the Fund you want to contribute to, and in the comment section please request that the money goes to the Abayudaya Women's Association Internet Fund.
When you donate, please email me so I can confirm with Harriet Bograd, the president of Kulanu.
I am excited that I have reached the second phase of this project and I hope you will join me in helping a diverse African community that is thriving on cooperation rather than fighting over their differences.
For more information on the Abayudaya themselves, please click here.