Many people have asked me why I set up Clean Power for Humanity (CPH) and how I derived at my decision to start this charity/ nonprofit. There is only ONE reason: LOVE. I have an intense love for humanity, the human spirit, and for the youth of our world. I thrive from learning about other cultures and have been humbled by others' immense capacity to open themselves, their life, and their homes to me. For me, there is no greater gift than seeing another human laughing and smiling from their eyes.
Recently, I traveled to the Karen State to explore and survey schools in villages that CPH can provide solar systems to power lights and fans so that the students can complete their homework and study after sundown and during wet season. In order to get to these villages (there are over 1200, I only saw 15), you fly into Bangkok, Thailand, and then either take a 10 hour bus or an 1 hour flight to the closest town, Mae Sot. From there you must get into a 4WD vehicle and travel for another 2 hours on narrow, pot holed, and red dirt roads. The Karen State is right over the Thai Border in Myanmar. However, due the conflict with the Burmese army, the Karen State has depended on themselves to build infrastructure in their villages. Upon reaching the villages, I felt like I was taken back to another world. The villages are PRISTINE GEMS. Untouched by mankind. Wooden thatched structures on stilts serve as homes, medical clinics, grocery stores, and schools. NONE of the villages have access to government power. Maybe 1% of the homes have 1 solar panel for lights (donated by the Thai government), but there is something to be said about being surrounded by nature and animals and GREENERY.
I have to be honest- I AM INCREDIBLY BLESSED. I have NEVER gone a day without power, a comfortable bed, air condition, or a western toilet. I grew up in the USA and HK. My parents studied and worked hard to give my brother and I everything they didn't have. I am well educated, well traveled, and worked and lived in Manhattan post University. My minor struggles in life do not even compare to the real life-threatening struggles of the Karen people. BUT yet, they are some of the most caring, loving, welcoming, and happy people I have ever met in my life. The kids in the schools smile in class as they are learning their English and Math lessons. They want to be there, and they want to learn. Many of the families send their kids to main villages to live in a dorm for the year so that their kids can have an education. The kids learn 4 languages (English, Thai, Burmese, and Karen), Math, Political Science, History, and Geography. Somehow from the age of 5 they have learned the importance of education and studying. With no power, after they have supper, they congregate back at the school and huddle around 1 small candle to finish up their homework and help one another study. Each student will bring 1 candle, so that there are enough candles to study for the 4 hours from 6pm-10pm. (Candles cost the families 50% of their monthly income). Did I mention that these schools are built from wood? Aren't burning candles a fire hazard?! The community shares in the responsibility of ensuring that the kids are fed, bathed, and go to school. Many of the families are not educated. I never imagined that a community could value education at such a high standard. I was and am constantly amazed by the Karen people's determination, grace, and love of humanity and one another.
I did not know what to expect as I stepped off the plane in Mae Sot to meet the General Commander. My goal for the trip was to meet as many people as I could and see as many village schools as I could. I assumed I would be staying in hotels for my time there and I think that my hosts believed the same as well. However, after dinner my first night, I was able to understand that many of these villages were far away and that I would not be able to see as many schools as I would like if I wanted to stay in a hotel. I decided to leave the hotel and kindly asked if I could stay in the villages with a host family. I figured this would be the most efficient and authentic way to understand the Karen community and village conditions. However, I did not want to impose or be a burden on a family. One family offered to take me to the Karen villages and asked me to stay with them. For the next 7 nights, I stayed in village huts, on the floor, sleeping on a mat, with a mosquito net. I was exposed to the elements. Toilets were mostly squat toilets with no flush function (you manually "flush" your doings with buckets of water). Showers were manual; you take a small bucket and douse yourself with a bucket of water from a communal well, soap head to toe, then one more bucket of water to rinse off. I got countless mosquito, spider, ants, and flea bites. I had a constant rash from the Deet that never got washed off from my body, and I was definitely afraid of the toilets. BUT I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT. I LOVE MY HOST FAMILY AND UNCLE GENERAL. I got to see 25 schools in 7 days; schools that have no power, filled to the brim with eager students. I got to meet older students that went on to university in Thailand. I was able to shower under the stars looking at lightening at a far off location. I was able to see pigs, goats, and chickens, run around freely. The most freeing experience was that I was able to shut off my phone (no reception, aka no internet) and be with the Karen community and focus on CPH's mission.
The villages have no power. Some are so poor that the kids only eat a handful of plain white rice for lunch at school. Some of the schools are only 2 years old because the villages only started to rebuild in 2014 after the Burmese army attacked and ethnic cleansed the villages. One such school, the photo of the students is the feature photo on my Myanmar page, is OUR NEXT GENERATION. The Karen people may not know what the future holds for them, but they DO understand that education is the key for their kids on having a better future. I look at my host family, Uncle General, and the countless kids and families I met, and I know that if CPH can provide solar to these schools, the kids will have a better opportunity to succeed and to ultimately increase their livelihood. The underlying concept of the Karen community is LOVE. Love for one another and humanity. Love for the next generation.
I believe that no matter what, CPH's mission is to provide green powered solutions to rural villages to increase their livelihood. I have found a region, so struck with poverty, with no governmental help, no electricity, but a community full of people working hard together to provide a better future for their children and next generation by building sustainable schools for education. WE must LOVE humanity and find solutions to better the world for our next generation. CPH's solution of providing solar panels to power lights and fans for schools is not a new concept, BUT it's an essential one in villages that have no access to power. Education is the key to increasing the livelihood of our next generation. WE must help.